Officials, Family Try To Solve 1996 Murder Mystery
Parents, Officials Frustrated That Killer Has Not Been Caught
POSTED: 11:59 a.m. EDT July 22, 2003
UPDATED: 3:02 p.m. EDT July 22, 2003
TEWKSBURY, Mass. -- Officials in a small Massachusetts town are trying to solve the 7-year-old mystery of the murder of a teenage girl. The victim's family is frustrated that her case remains unsolved and the killer is still at large.
Newscenter 5's Anthony Everett reported that Brandi Amy Sullivan was killed in the summer of 1996 and her family believes someone in the community knows who killed her.
Brandi Sullivan was just 17 years old when she was murdered. On her gravestone, her father wrote, "Please don't shed a tear for the reason why I'm here. Think of me, as I wanted to be. Think of me as being free." "She wanted to be free. She didn't want any restrictions on her life," said Brandi's father, Dennis Sullivan.
She was born Amy, but later changed her name to Brandi. Her parents said she was fun-loving and family-oriented. But there was another side -- a troubled teen who left school and got lost in drugs and alcohol.
So much was known about Brandi's life, but her death remains very much a mystery.
"I have her prayer card from her funeral posted up here on my wall and I look at it every day," said Dennis Sullivan.
Tewksbury homicide detective Dennis Peterson will not give up on the stalled investigation of Brandi's murder. He keeps a thick file on the case containing hundreds of details, interviews, and a chronology.
"We feel confident that there's somebody out there that knows exactly what happened to her, and for whatever reason, they're not coming forward with their information," said Peterson.
Brandi's parents last saw her on June 6, 1996. Brandi called her mother from a Tewksbury shopping plaza, got a ride home and made a snack.
She made a phone call. She never said who she was trying to call and she said, 'Goodnight, love you,' and that's the last time I ever talked to her," said Brandi's mother Barbara Sullivan.
"When we got up in the morning, came downstairs, and she was gone," said Dennis Sullivan.
This was not the first time Brandi had left home and her parents thought she might be with her boyfriend or other friends. They drove around town looking for her for days.
"We were really worried because Amy always called us," said Barbara Sullivan.
Authorities have pieced together the strange odyssey of Brandi's final weeks. While her parents worried, she was just miles away camping with friends at the Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover, Mass.
"I think July 17 was perhaps the actual last time anyone saw her, and that was in the Chelmsford Mall," said Dennis Sullivan.
Brandi was sitting in an illegally parked van in a fire lane outside the mall when she was approached by a police officer. The two men she was traveling with came out to move the van, but not before police noted her name and the license plate number. Three weeks later Brandi's decomposed body was found behind the I.R.S. warehouse in Wilmington, Mass.
"This was a child. This was a young woman who, for whatever reason, got into harm's way," said Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley in August 1996.
The cause of death was blunt force to the head. One of Brandi's companions in the van, a 30-something metal collector named Neil Cluff, went to prison for lying about when he last saw Brandi. Seven years later, the wall of secrecy surrounding Brandi's murder has not come down.
"That's what makes it so particularly frustrating because we did have clues, we did have a trail, we did have people she was with who might have known where she was going," said Coakley.
"I think there's a lot of people who don't want to cooperate whatsoever and I have no clue why except that they must be involved in it somehow, " said Dennis Sullivan. "They're afraid that what happened to Brandi will happen to them."
Copyright 2003 by TheBostonChannel. All rights reserved.