CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – A former teacher’s aide has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the deadly overdose of a young man.
Almeda Sullivan had been linked to the overdose deaths of four people: Carter Lee Higdon, 21; Sierra Renee Cochran, 19; Lindsey Jo Saidy, 28; and Martynas Simanskas, 20.
The drug Opana was found in all of the victims.
It was the overdose death of Higdon that led investigators to Sullivan’s home. A crime technician recognized her home from another overdose death, which kicked off a larger investigation.
“He will always be the light of my life and that light was darkened on Oct. 1, 2011,” said Higdon’s mother Sara Donegan.
Although Sullivan was linked to the four overdose deaths, she was only convicted in Higdon’s death.
“It’s a difficult case and as far as I know one that we haven’t seen like this in this district or maybe Colorado,” said Arapahoe County Sheriff Dave Walcher.
Sullivan was not only selling prescription drugs to those before they died but police said she was coaching them on usage and overdose guidelines.
Prosecutors say Sullivan’s medical background as a respiratory technician, among other specialties, gave her knowledge of the drug and its potency. Opana is 10 times more potent than morphine.
“Almeda Sullivan knew and counted on being able to bring these youngsters back to feed whatever egocentric needs she had. She in essence became a merchant of death,” said Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler.
Court documents detail that Sullivan was getting excessive amounts of pills from doctors. The state database that tracks narcotic prescriptions shows she was getting 4,000 to 5,000 pills each year from 2007 up to her arrest in 2011.
Sullivan apologized to the overdose victims.
“I forgive her. I’m not going to hold hatred… that does no one good. I forgive her,” said Donegan.
The Cherry Creek School District confirmed Sullivan is a former teacher’s aide at West Middle School and worked in transportation. She worked for the district on two separate occasions. She left the district in May 2005.