AIKEN -- An Aiken man who was chased down by three good Samaritans last year will spend up to 35 years in prison after a jury convicted him Thursday of breaking into a woman's home and nearly strangling her when she discovered him.
Oscar Sullivan, 32, took the witness stand and denied committing the home invasion, saying a friend handed him the woman's stolen property as he walked down the street. Assistant Public Defender David Mauldin argued that the victim's three neighbors may have grabbed Mr. Sullivan because he was the first black man they saw.
But the jurors rejected those arguments and accepted assertions by Assistant Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. that Mr. Sullivan was the person who committed a "reign of terror" on victim Beth Jackson.
On the witness stand, Ms. Jackson said she returned home from work Sept. 25 and discovered the defendant in her bedroom. She recognized him as the man who had come to her house earlier in the week, asking to perform yardwork.
"He said, `Oh my God, it's you! I'm back.' He grabbed me around the neck and started choking me," Ms. Jackson said. "Sometimes, I put my hands under his arms to breathe. He said, `Don't struggle, or I'll break your neck."'
Mr. Sullivan, an admitted drug addict with a long criminal record, kept both hands around Ms. Jackson's neck as he walked her around the house on her tiptoes, looking for money, the woman said. Eventually, he put Ms. Jackson in a bathroom and locked the door, she said.
While the burglar rummaged through the house and took a pocketbook from her car, Ms. Jackson forced out the screen from the bathroom window and ran to the home of neighbor Andy Oswald.
In back-to-back testimony, Mr. Oswald and his friends, John Hamilton and Mark Patterson, described hearing Ms. Jackson bang on their door and cry out for help. The trio recalled running next door to the victim's Colleton Avenue home, watching Mr. Sullivan come out and then chasing him down the street.
They eventually caught the suspect, struggled with him and sat on his back until police arrived.
During the defense's case, Mr. Sullivan tried to explain why police found the victim's belongings in his pockets. The defendant said he was simply walking down the street when a friend named Anthony approached him and asked if he could hold some items the friend had just stolen. Mr. Sullivan agreed, telling jurors that he frequently took stolen items to pawn for his friends.
After his friend left, the three men came up to him and jumped on him, the defendant said.
The jury deliberated for nearly an hour and returned guilty verdicts on seven charges: first-degree burglary, kidnapping, armed robbery, breaking into a motor vehicle, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.
Hearing the verdicts, Mr. Sullivan began to cry, and his sobs were heard throughout his sentencing hearing.
Judge Alexander Macaulay ordered Mr. Sullivan to spend 90 years in prison but made some of them concurrent sentences -- to be served at the same time. The defendant will be eligible for parole after 29 years.
After the court proceeding, the defendant's wife, Kim Black, hugged the victim and wished her luck in getting on with her life.
Since the attack, Ms. Jackson has been too scared to return to her home. She lives with her parents but would like to move back.
"I'll see how strong I feel," Ms. Jackson said. "I'm glad to know he won't be out for a while."
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.
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