Real Name: Lita McClinton Sullivan
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Date: January 16, 1987
CaseEditDetails: Millionaire James Sullivan met Atlanta socialite Lita McClinton in 1975 while she was working in a Georgia mall and a few years later they were married, after James divorced his first wife, which he lost considerable money and property from. Lita's family feared that James married her only because of the high power that the family had. In the early 1980s, Lita left James after several arguments and in 1985 she filed for divorce and moved to a townhouse in Buckhead. They were in the middle of nasty divorce proceedings to end their marriage when on the morning of January 16, 1987, Lita opened her door to a delivery man who was delivering her a dozen of roses when he shot her once in the head and she was killed instantly. Several witnesses saw the man fleeing the scene of the crime, but could not identify him. Although James was at their home several miles away, authorities believed that it was possible that it was a contract hit. The flowers were ordered by three unidentified men who were at a hotel using false identification. A flower vendor remembered a nervous man buying the flowers, and authorities learned from associates that James did not want to deal with another divorce, and said that he wouldn't be surprised if Lita suffered a "tragic accident". Also, the day that Lita was killed, she was scheduled to testify in court later that day.
Although the gunman was never identified, and the murder weapon was never found, a few months after Lita's murder, James was arrested and charged in her death. However, the case was soon dismissed due to lack of evidence. Eight months later, James remarried, but his new wife divorced when she begins to receive death threats. Lita's family were not going to give up; her father Emory McClinton, a former US Department of Transportation, and mother Joann, a Georgia state representative, were among Atlanta's most prominent African American families, and were able to keep the case alive. Then, authorities got a break when after James' third wife divorced him, she told police that he had confessed to her that he had killed Lita. In April of 1998, a North Carolina man named Phillip Anthony Harwood was arrested on unrelated charges when he confessed to Lita's murder and claimed to James hired him. Finally, in May of 1998, James Sullivan was charged with felony murder and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Arrangements were made by his attorney for Sullivan to surrender to authorities, but that never happened. Authorities believe that he fled the country shortly after the arrest warrant was made, and that he may be in Ireland, where he has a dual citizenship.
Suspects: James Sullivan
Extra Notes: This segment originally aired on the July 10, 2001 episode of Unsolved Mysteries .
The case was also featured on Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege and Justice.
Results: Solved. James Sullivan was captured on July 2, 2002, by the FBI while he was living with his Thai girlfriend in a condominium located in Cha-am, Thailand. He was extradited to Georgia and sentenced to life in prison without parole. The triggerman, Philip Anthony Harwood, was also found guilty of murder and was sentenced to twenty years in prison.
- A Marriage of Inconvenience on Youtube
- Lita McClinton on Wikipedia
- African-American Socialite Murdered
- Lita McClinton at Find a Grave