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A Prelude to Aaron Sullivan Story

September 11, 2009

September 11- A few weeks ago, as noted below, I mentioned that I received a copy of the charging documents from the King County Prosecutor’s office which outlines the argument and evidence for charging Tristan Appleberry with second degree murder.

If you listen to my interview with the Prosecution, they state clearly that the difference between 1st and 2nd degree murder comes down to witnesses- there are no witnesses to attest to Appleberry’s actions (or words) before he pulled the trigger.

Let me correct that- there are witnesses- but they refuse to speak to the police.  So, I went back through the documents with a bit more attention to detail to see what I could come up with with regard to witnesses.  As I suspected, numerous names jump off the page- some more eye-brow raising than others.  We’ll get to that later.  Getting people to address whether they were or were not present at the location when the shooting happened is almost impossible.  Almost.  There were at least 3 people who knew Appleberry who were there when the shooting happened, including his mother, however, there may have been as many as 5, including his mother.

Chloe Shaffer

Chloe Shaffer

One thing I noticed centers on Appleberry’s girlfriend, Chloe Shaffer.  You may recall that Appleberry was arrested very near Shaffer’s home the morning after the shooting took place.  The documents state that Schaffer was arrested as well.  In her statement to police she claims that prior to the shooting she and Appleberry were looking for a friend, “Tao” at his home on Beacon Hill and then:

“The defendant found that “Tao” was not at home, so he called him. “Tao” told the defendant that he was at the defendant’s house at 725 32nd Ave S…so he left Ms. Shaffer at “Tao’s” house and he and “Mike” drove to the defendant’s house. A short time later the defendant drove back to “Tao’s” house and told Ms. Shaffer that he got a gun and that the gun “misfired” and he didn’t mean to shoot the male. She stated that she did not ask any more questions, and he did not tell. her anything more about the incident.”

Appleberry and his girlfriend went to Tao’s house.  Tao wasn’t there, so they called him to find he was at Appleberry’s looking for him.  So Appleberry leaves Shaffer at Tao’s house even though Tao wasn’t there, and drives back to his home. When he went back and picked her up, she claims he told her the gun misfired.  She further claims they did not discuss it beyond his statement.  She then remained with him until the following morning.

But then there is this, also from the documents.  This goes back to after the shooting, when police are still at Appleberry’s home after he has fled the location:

“Officers surrounded the house at 725 32nd Avenue South. The SPD S,W.AT. team was called. Believing that Appleberry was in the house, officers attempted to persuade the occupants to come out. Eventually, Sue Nevins, Appleberry’s mother, emerged from the house. She was wearing a yellow dress. Nevins refused to recount what she had witnessed, but told officers that Appleberry was not in the house, saying that he had left with his girlfriend, a young woman subsequently identified as 19-year-old ,Chloe Shaffer.”

Shaffer told the police she was at a Tao’s house “somewhere in the Central District” when the shooting happened.  But Appleberry’s mother places her at the scene.

I attempted to contact Ms. Shaffer but her cell number has been changed.  It appears she has a facebook page and a myspace page which she hasn’t logged into since July.  There is a photo on her myspace which is noted as “Tristan”, though it’s not actually a photo of a person.

Subsequently, Ms. Shaffer isn’t the only person with Appleberry that day to claim they weren’t present for the shooting as they had been dropped off elsewhere just prior to the incident- Beacon Hill, to be exact.


Picture of the Appleberry home and property, for your reference as you’re listening and reading.


Appleberry residence

September 10-A bit of my interview with Grayson, one of Aaron’s best friends, who was sitting in the rear of the car when the shooting happened.


Pt 2

Pt 3

Tristan Nevins-Appleberry

This update is from the Central District News Blog, including the photo of Appleberry at a court hearing yesterday.

Today Tristan Appleberry made an appearance in King County Superior Court, where a judge set a date of December 16th for his trial in the July 22nd shooting of Aaron Sullivan. Although the date seems quick for such a serious charge, it is actually delayed a bit due to “discovery issues”, including the need for the defense team to look at the autopsy results and issues surrounding text messages found on a confiscated cell phone.

Appleberry is charged with second degree murder in the case, where he is alleged to have retrieved an assault rifle from his home and shot Sullivan dead as he sat in a vehicle on 32nd Avenue South in Leschi.

August 31

Siobhan Sullivan

Siobhan Sullivan

Just a few minutes of Aaron’s sister, Siobhan Sullivan (pronounced Shuh-vaughn).  She’s 14 and a freshman in high school this year.

Called Appleberry’s girlfriend (whose home he was arrested at a day after the murder) and her cell # appears to have been changed- no shock there.  Also called Appleberry’s mother’s cell and got the same recording.  Was thinking of going by the Appleberry home, but hear they are not staying in the house.  Plus, if she cussed the detectives at the scene (scroll to interview with PA’s office), I doubt she’ll have much to say to me, so I think I’ll let that go for the time being.

Trying to pull in at least 1 nationally recognized and respected name to talk about the perception of young Black men- the more I learn about Aaron, the more I think that aspect must be addressed in the article.  I hope they agree to an interview and lend us all some wisdom.

Still interviewing other family and witnesses.

Will call SPD tomorrow to check up on my public info request for police incident reports and all related 911 calls.


Aaron Sullivan

August 30th-  Here is part of my interview with the Deputy Chief of Staff for the King County Prosecutor where he discusses why the accused is facing murder 2 and not murder 1, and the Prosecution’s intent to up the charges should they develop more evidence backing a charge of premeditation, not just intent.

August 29th-There are some things that are simply captured in the moment, and as a writer, I do not have the ability to recreate.  When I transcribe interviews I often mourn the fact that the readers can’t hear what was said, how it was said…which words were accentuated, where the pauses came in..where words fail entirely and there is silence.

There are hours and hours of interviews for this story, and still hours more to come.  As I’m updating this post with the progress of the article I’ll also be sharing clips of interviews with those who knew Aaron, those who witnessed his murder, whose lives are forever changed and those responsible for the prosecution of his alleged killer, Tristan Appleberry.  Should SPD ever respond to my request for copies of the related 911 calls, I’ll post those too, as there were calls from people inside the car with Aaron, as well as witnesses outside.

These are rough cuts which are meant to give you the context of sound and emotion.  Aaron’s life and Aaron’s death.


Aaron Sullivan

Here are a few slivers of my interview with Aaron’s mother, Dr. Debra Sullivan:


Pt 2

Pt 3

Mariah Gill-Erhart

Mariah Gill-Erhart

A part of my interview with Aaron’s girlfriend Mariah.  It’s a rough cut, but a glimpse into who Aaron was to her.  She was in the car when he was shot- that will be posted later.

August 28:  I interviewed Aaron’s younger sister today.  She is 14 and will be a freshman beginning Monday.  While she understands that her brother was murdered, she doesn’t understand at all.  She said repeatedly that it hasn’t “clicked” yet.  She doesn’t understand why someone would shoot Aaron in the head, when he did nothing wrong (and despite media reports, he really did nothing wrong ya’ll).  She has been to court and seen the accused killer.  She says his attitude is “whatever”, as if he doesn’t take the situation seriously at all.  She wants him to realize what he did, and take responsibility for it because “he knows he did it”.  Her life and those of her family members is forever changed.  Aaron was her number 1 cheerleader.  She said of him “he followed the beat of his own life”.  She is going to grow into a force to be reckoned with, I can tell.  I’m really thankful for the opportunity to hear, from his sister, what Aaron meant to her, the family, his friends and community.

Also interviewed Deputy Chief of Staff of KC Prosecutor.  Very interesting info that cleared up many of yesterday’s questions which I posed below.

Tomorrow I will call Appleberry’s mother and girlfriend.  Monday I will call his attorney.  Still waiting on 911 calls and police reports from SPD.

August 27:  Where to begin- there’s just so much information- so many details- so many side plots to the main story line, and they’re all relevant, they all create the story, even if they don’t wind up in the final article, I want you to know about them.

Yesterday I interviewed Debra and Mariah, Aaron’s girlfriend who was sitting next to him when he was shot.  Tomorrow I’ll interview Aaron’s younger sister, and hopefully, his older brother.  I’ll be calling the girlfriend of the suspect, Tristan Appleberry,  and his mother.  I doubt they’ll talk to me, but since I have the numbers, I’m going to at least try.  Appleberry’s mother was standing on the porch when the shooting happened.  Tristan called his girlfriend right after the shooting happened, and was arrested at her home the next day- as was she.  I’m also looking to get a statement from Appleberry’s attorney on what happened that night.

I got a copy of the charging documents filed by the King County Prosecutor.  The 9 page document is very informative, but I couldn’t help noticing what wasn’t in them.  Mainstream media, namely this article which reads as if the author is attempting to rationalize what happened to Aaron- that there had to be some detail of his life that caused what happened.  Aaron was not a thug, he wasn’t street or hood, he wasn’t into the gang life.  Despite what the PI article and other reports hint to, the charging documents do not mention any altercation between the victim or the suspect, certainly not an altercation over a girl.  So why were those things reported in the media?  Good question.

There is also the question of criminal charges.  Appleberry was charged with Murder 2.  he faces 15-23 years.  What is the standard for Murder 1?  Is the case being low-balled?  There were 2 other people in the car with Aaron when he was shot.  Based on what was given to me today, it does not appear that any charges (assault, for example) were filed on their behalf.  Why?

I have filed a request with SPD for the 911 calls and the police incident report(s).  No one will be able to say I wasn’t thorough in my research.

Aaron was shot with an SKS 7.62 caliber rifle.  The charging documents describe it as having “a wooden stock” which would suggest it looked something like this:

1sks rifle

However, witnesses described the gun as looking like “an AK 47”, so it may have actually looked more like this:

2sks rifle

Both are SKS rifles.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2009 6:00 am

    Thank you Sable for bringing information to a deserving public and for the publishing photos of what these military weapons in the hands of the public look like and what they can do to an unarmed innocent person. And please get something about the shooter Appleberry. Why in the world is his identity so sacred, who is he, what did his teachers think about him, his friends, who are his parents and for god sake what are their names, what do they do and why did they allow these types of weapons in their home? The police say there were more than one. We know who the mother and deceased father of the victim; Dr. Debra Sullivan, a professor who teaches teachers how to educate young children and Scott Sullivan a well respected attorney. At his St. Therese memorial the Priest weeped and said we need to do something about these guns.”

    I know Debra and got to know her even better during this tragedy. She as a mother deserves this airing as does his girlfriend who was traumatized by this and his siblings. Thank you.

  2. August 30, 2009 4:55 am

    I’m somewhat removed from this story…but I appreciated the way in which you guided the interview. Keep doin’ your thang, Sable…we are watching/listening/reading!

  3. August 31, 2009 1:53 am

    I have always failed to understand why guns and the possession of guns by citizens can be seen to be and accepted as; a right!

    The ‘right-to-bear-arms’ is a misdirect as a truth because the rights of citizens can in truth apply only to life enhancing conventions. The necessity to bear arms in defence of lives is a matter not best dealt with by willy-nilly access to firearms; no matter what the circumstances.

    This is a story that will repeat just like in that ‘ground-hog day’ scenario, until people get their priorities aligned with why we were put here in the first place.

    Moore covered it well in his Columbine documnentary.

  4. Linda Mohl permalink
    August 31, 2009 2:06 pm

    THANK YOU, Sable!! I’m so glad to see someone addressing this story. Here’s hoping that you will be able to shed some kind of light on why we can always get suspect photos-before charging-of anyone with brown skin but a judge saying this guy can’t be photographed despite multiple eye witnesses and a murder charge.

  5. Liz Ali permalink
    August 31, 2009 7:56 pm

    Sable, what an important task you have done by helping this family tell their story. This is a very heartbreaking and sad story indeed.

    I appreciate Debra Sullivan for allowing the community this opportunity to hear the painful account of her son being a young victim who has been murdered and taken from his family by the act of gun violence.

    The local newspaper never portray any of the youth from 14years old to the young adults, who have been killed in Seattle by gun violence as VICTIMS, yet they all have been murdered at the hands of another by use of a firearm and yes they are ALL victims. Regardless of any real, perceived or suggested gang affiliation or not, simply holds no basis to devalue a life. It’s a diversion tactic that is being used to disregard the meaning of their young lives as well as the families they leave behind. We must not lose focus of the issues and more importantly the solutions.

    These are all of our children… the good ones and the ones who have lost their way =a human beings- period.

    My prayers are with Debra and her family for their loss…


  6. September 11, 2009 12:37 pm

    Thanks Sable. Do you know if there is a march or some kind of demo this weekend. Can you let me know, The Skanner wants to send a photographer if we can. Thanks. Helen

  7. Sable permalink
    September 11, 2009 12:46 pm

    There was a march last night.

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