After fatal shooting, woman’s friends and family hope to shine light on domestic violence

Friday, March 31, 2017 - 12:23
  • Brandy Sullivan (photo courtesy of Tina Novotney)
  • Brandy Sullivan, left, poses for a photo with her sister, Tina Novotney. (Photo courtesy of Tina Novotney)

The plan was to meet up in California for a girls’ getaway near the end of April.

Lindsey Collins said she looked forward to seeing Alaskan friends who were close enough to be sisters. One of them had recently split from her husband, and Collins wanted to be there for her. They called the April vacation the New Beginning Trip.

They never made it. In February, former Eagle River resident Brandy Sullivan, 37, was killed in her Anchorage home. Her husband, 40-year-old Adam Sullivan, faces charges of first- and second-degree murder in connection with her shooting. His trial is scheduled to begin in May.

In the weeks following her friend’s death, Collins began circulating an online petition seeking reforms to Alaska’s domestic violence restraining order rules. Brandy’s Law, she called it.

“This isn’t just Brandy, this is Alaska,” Collins said. “Everybody has a related story — if you go on the petition and you read the comments, it’s ‘I’m a survivor,’ or ‘I’m going through this now,’ or ‘My sister is going through this.’”

Across Alaska, nearly half of all women have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner, according to a 2015 survey by the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center. Statewide, women are killed by men at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country, according to data from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Collins hopes to tighten the requirements for issuing a DVRO and the consequences for receiving or violating one. Under current Alaska state statute, violating a protective order “may be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year of incarceration and up to a $10,000 fine.” Collins would like the year-long sentence to be mandatory.

The petition is just the first part, she said. While she declined to name specific legislators, she said she’s been in contact with Alaskan lawmakers, and plans to push to file a bill in the near future.

Two months before Sullivan died, her husband was charged with third-degree criminal mischief after allegedly vandalizing her home. A criminal complaint filed in district court details the angry phone call, the holes in the closet doors, walls and kitchen sink; a destroyed fireplace, dishwasher, coffee table and TV stand; a wrecked iPad; and deflated tires.

The day after the vandalism, Sullivan filed for short- and long-term restraining orders, court records show. The short-term order was granted. A few weeks later, though, a judge denied her petition for a long-term protective order when Brandy Sullivan did not appear at a court hearing on the matter.

Her sister wishes she’d gone.

“I wish I sat down and told her, face to face, ‘Look, I’m terrified for you,’” said Tina Novotney, who lives and works in Eagle River.

Novotney said she stands by Collins’ quest to tighten DVRO laws.

Weeks after her sister’s shooting, Novotney said she still takes things day by day. She works, cares for her own family, follows court proceedings and speaks on her sister’s behalf. Sullivan was an artist who loved painting, a doting mother and a loyal friend, remembered fondly by coworkers and beloved by family.

Speaking in televised interviews, Novotney seems calm, but on the inside, she said, “I’m falling apart.”

“That day, a piece of me died,” she said.

She’d like to spread a message: If you see a family member in a dangerous situation, don’t be scared to act.

It’s a wish shared by others who knew Brandy.

“I just don’t think that domestic violence is a topic that people talk about – they try to keep their personal lives so private,” said Collins, working to change Alaska’s domestic violence laws from her home in California.

She said she plans to travel back to Alaska and meet with lawmakers sometime over the next few months. Collins’ petition has garnered national support, with nearly 1,400 signatures and messages of encouragement from around the country. She hopes a legal change could ultimately prevent more deaths like Sullivan’s.

“She was a young girl from Eagle River who got success in life,” Collins said. “It could be anybody’s daughter.”

Contact reporter Kirsten Swann at [email protected]

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