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Continued: Minneapolis lawyer shot dead by boyfriend in Shoreview home

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG and JOY POWELL , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Last update: June 5, 2013 - 6:08 AM

Simpson’s ex-wife wrote in a 2002 affidavit that Simpson attacked her on March 27, 2001, she moved out four days later and that on April 26, 2001 she served him with divorce papers. A letter from the law firm that prosecuted cases for Shoreview at the time shows that Simpson was charged with fifth-degree domestic assault and disorderly conduct in 2001.

“John Simpson has many admirable qualities, but when he is under stress or surprised by new facts that he did not anticipate, he will respond in an angry and abusive manner, so much that I have a serious facial scar on my lip from being pushed by him when [our son] was a baby and this physical abuse occurred again on March 27, 2001,” his ex-wife wrote in court documents, adding that he allegedly withdrew $58,000 from their joint account without her permission a few days after she moved out in 2001.

He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to one year of probation, a $300 fine and domestic abuse counseling.

In his request for temporary sole legal custody of their only child, Simpson wrote in 2001 that he was the boy’s primary caregiver and that his wife of 25 years “walked out” on them.

Sullivan worked at Barnes and Thornburg law firm’s Minneapolis office. She had practiced for more than 25 years, advising businesses on employee benefits, retirement plans, tax issues and similar matters.

She graduated cum laude from Moorhead State University in 1977, and earned her law degree with honors from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1980, according to her law firm.

Family coping

“She was an extraordinarily generous person, and the world loses a lot when it lost her,” said Sullivan’s sister-in-law, Beth Sullivan of Richfield.

She said the family doesn’t yet know exactly how the incident happened.

“I’m sorry. We’re all still processing this right now. … We’re still trying to piece together the real story,” she said.

Beth Sullivan declined Tuesday evening to discuss her sister-in-law’s pending move, and her breaking off with Simpson.

“That kind of thing I can’t get into right now, or won’t until we can congregate a little as a family,” she said. “We’re all split up right now.”

Peter Ekberg, managing partner of the firm, issued this written statement: “We are greatly saddened to learn about the loss of our beloved law partner and colleague, Nancy Sullivan. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Nancy’s family at this difficult time. She was an exceptional lawyer and a wonderful person. We will miss her greatly.”

Sullivan contributed to the community, Ekberg said, including through her pro bono work for the Children’s Law Center. She was active in several community organizations, including Hope Family, the Cristo Rey High School Mentorship Program and Pathways to Success, which helps get college scholarships to youths who are typically underserved.

“We’re all going to miss her,” Ekberg said.


Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

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  • Sullivan

  • Ramsey County sheriff’s investigators spent the day at the home where two people were killed.

  • If You Need help

    Carol Arthur, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Project, recommends that women trying to leave a relationship seek help from a domestic abuse agency or advocate to run through possible scenarios and solutions.

    “It’s not unusual for women, once they start talking to an advocate, to say, ‘…I didn’t realize how much there was, how long this has been going on, the ways my partner was abusive to me,’ ” Arthur said.

    Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week via:

    • Minnesota Domestic Violence Crisis Line, 1-866-223-1111

    Men who need to talk about issues and help handling breakups can call this 24-hour line:

    • Crisis Connection, The Men’s Line, 1-866-379-6367

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