Biglaw, Deaths, ERISA, Murder, Partner Issues, Violence

Biglaw Partner Murdered in Apparent Domestic Violence Incident

Nancy Sullivan

Partners make the Biglaw world go ’round, and when a partner dies, especially in a manner as brutal as this, the Biglaw world weeps.

Today, we’ve got some sad news out of Minneapolis, where Nancy Sullivan, a Barnes & Thornburg partner who practiced ERISA and employee benefits law and served as the pro bono coordinator at her firm’s office, was shot and killed by her boyfriend as she tried to move out of the home they shared together. Also wounded were Sullivan’s daughter, Kathleen Fay, and Fay’s boyfriend, Tony Brown.

Suspected shooter Johnny Simpson also died, but police are not yet calling this a murder-suicide…

Authorities are trying to gather additional facts before they classify the deaths as such. According to Fox Twin Cities, Ramsey County police are still investigating “whether Simpson took his own life intentionally or was shot during some sort of struggle over the gun.”

Neighbors report that the scene of the crime was grisly. From the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

[A] neighbor said he found Fay lying in the front yard, bleeding and screaming. He found Brown inside a back room of the house in the same condition.

The neighbor … he found Sullivan in a hallway, shot, curled up in the fetal position and not moving. Simpson, he said, was slumped against a wall in the hallway, also not moving, with an apparent gunshot wound to the head.

Simpson allegedly had a history of violence, and was charged with fifth-degree domestic assault and disorderly conduct in 2001 after an altercation with his then wife. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

[C]ourt records from Simpson’s 2002 divorce from his ex-wife accuse him of domestic abuse and bullying behavior.

“John has a pattern of escalating anger which culminates in very abusive verbal behavior, and sometimes escalates to physical,” Simpson’s ex-wife wrote in a 2005 affidavit concerning custody of their son. “John has caused me stitches in my cheek and has also choked me.”

In a statement released by Barnes & Thornburg, Peter Ekberg, the managing partner of the firm’s Minneapolis office, expressed a great deal of sympathy following the loss of a partner:

“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.”

This is extremely depressing. Although there were no outward signs that Sullivan was in an abusive relationship with Simpson — after all, they “seemed like a normal, happy couple” — you never know the secrets people keep behind closed doors or the masks they wear in public to disguise their guilt.

If you’re involved in a verbally or physically abusive relationship, there are friends, family, and colleagues you can call. If you’re a victim of domestic violence, reach out if you need help, before it’s too late.

UPDATE (1:15 p.m.): If you feel that you are in immediate danger, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Assistance is available in English and Spanish.

Minneapolis lawyer shot dead by boyfriend in Shoreview home [Minneapolis Star Tribune]
Shoreview: 2 shot dead, 2 wounded in apparent case of domestic violence [St. Paul Pioneer Press]
SHOREVIEW SHOOTING: Lawyer shot by boyfriend during move-out [Fox Twin Cities]
Barnes and Thornburgh partner is killed; authorities suspect shooter was boyfriend, who also died
[ABA Journal]

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