WARNING: The information contained in this article includes explicit accounts of sexual abuse as discovered in a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) investigation and written in two affidavits filed for search warrants. The content is not suitable for younger readers.
*All names, except those of officials, have been changed for anonymity.
One young man lay sleeping on the couch at 516 S. Jefferson St. on March 26, 2014, when the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division executed a search warrant at the residence of John Edward Sullivan.
According to two affidavits for search warrants filed at the Tom Green County Courthouse, DPS officers were in search of physical evidence to substantiate numerous reports and interviews conducted over a seven-month investigation of Sullivan in relation to child pornography and online solicitation of a minor with sexual conduct.
The affidavits detail the accounts of at least three juvenile victims of sexual contact, intercourse, and sexual performance over a period that began between February 2009 and February 2010 and concluded with Sullivan’s arrest on March 26, 2014.
Also included in the affidavits are summaries of reports from four adults in San Angelo, who filed complaints and completed interviews with law enforcement officers that describe Sullivan as a pedophile and child predator.
The summarized chronology of the documents details allegations ranging from telephone harassment and solicitation to ‘pimping out’ children and sexual oppression for money, as well as a request to have someone adopt a child from Ecuador and hand the child over Sullivan thereafter.
The Investigation Begins
The investigation began on Aug. 7, 2013, when DPS Agent Joel Callaway received a report of telephone harassment from the San Angelo Girl Scouts of America office. According to the affidavit, the Girl Scouts office had received numerous phone calls from Sullivan offering “free kittens to any little girl scout” beginning in June of last year. Sullivan did not block his number when he made the calls and identified himself when asked by the woman that answered the phone.
By August, the Girl Scouts office received an additional phone call, this time from an anonymous number, in which the caller stated, “You know what I like to eat besides Girl Scout cookies, little Girl Scout expletive.” After this call, the Girl Scouts office contacted the police department to report the harassment. On Aug. 8, Callaway retrieved an audio recording of Sullivan’s voice on file from a burglary that Sullivan reported over 911 earlier that year and played the recording back.
The recipient of the call, who had described the voice as that of a creepy old man, stated that she was “100 percent positive it is the same voice of the man that called the Girl Scouts Office…” in the recording of the 911 call.
Three weeks later, on Aug. 27, 2013, a second complaint was reported to the San Angelo Police Department regarding Sullivan. San Angelo Police Officer Wesley Bodden took the report, which was submitted by a female who stated that Sullivan had been attempting to have contact with her brother, Sean*, who was still a juvenile. The woman reported to Officer Bodden that she had heard Sullivan tell Sean that he “wanted to suck on his toes and then work his way up”.
Based on the allegations in Bodden’s report, Callaway and SAPD Officer Bobby Elrod met with Sean, and after obtaining consent, accompanied him to the Children’s Advocacy Center for a forensic interview with Melody Jeter of the Hope House program.
Sean did not make an “outcry” in this interview and appeared scared and ashamed, the affidavit reads, averting his eyes to the ground and fidgeting with a pen while he responded in short answers. He did not confirm his sister’s allegations, but did offer that he knew Sullivan.
In a later interview conducted on Oct. 17, 2013, Sean told Jeter, “Last time I was here I didn’t tell you everything because I didn’t know you,” and admitted that Sullivan had told him over the phone that “he wanted to suck on my toes….[and] kiss me all over my body.”
Sean also disclosed that Sullivan had made other inappropriate advances, and stated at one point that Sullivan said he would give him a million dollars as long as he kept talking to him. Later on in the investigation, officers would learn that Sullivan had indeed promised $1 million to each of three male juveniles—who turned out to be brothers—after his death in exchange for keeping in contact and for performing sexual acts.
The Online Element
On Sept. 6, 2013, Callaway followed up on another lead, this time on a complaint from a San Angelo resident on Los Lomas Drive. According to the affidavit, Callaway went to meet the complainant, who was not at home, but met with a relative that lived next door. The relative relayed that the complaint was made when Sullivan approached her and asked her to adopt a child from Ecuador and turn it over to him.
The sister of the complainant then provided Callaway with an email address for Sullivan, and when he called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a hit came back with a cyber tip reported to the Texas Attorney General’s office on Feb. 26, 2013.
The tip was submitted by one of Sullivan’s tenants in his many rent houses named Chris*, who had met him in November 2012 and agreed to assist Sullivan with his computer tech needs in exchange for a discount on his rent. In his email to the NCMEC, Chris stated that he had assisted Sullivan in setting up multiple email addresses and Facebook accounts for anonymity, which he later began to suspect Sullivan was using “to lure young boys in”.
Chris had begun to see “red flags” and noted that Sullivan had once called him frantically “asking about how to permanently delete conversations from Sullivan’s Facebook account,” the affidavit states.
In an interview conducted on Oct. 10, 2013, Chris explained to Agent Callaway that he had once gone to Sullivan’s house to work on his computer, and upon arrival, noticed that a conversation was open on the computer's desktop in which Sullivan was making explicit sexual suggestions to the recipient. Based on the profile picture on the recipient’s Facebook page, Chris determined he was a young teenage boy, and stated in the interview that this was one of the factors that prompted him to submit the cyber tip to NCMEC.
The investigation continued for several months, and on March 25, 2014, the day before the issuance of the search warrant, Callaway visited Sean once more for a third interview.
Sean relayed several different events that had occurred in the span of time he had known Sullivan, including a time that Sullivan had shown him a picture of a fully nude teenage boy on a bed, and a disturbing tale of a life-size Justin Bieber cardboard cutout Sullivan kept in his bedroom. When he asked Sullivan why he had it, Sean told Callaway, Sullivan had responded, “Because it looks like you”.
Sean also stated that on one occasion Sullivan had given him his credit card to go and purchase some things, and when he returned with an iPod, Sullivan was angry, stating he’d spent too much money.
“Take it out of the million dollars you were going to give me,” Sean replied, however Sullivan was not content with that answer and advised Sean that he needed to meet up with him twice a week for 48 weeks to pay back the money. “Meet up,” Sean told Callaway, means to have sex. He was certain of that.
During the same interview, Sean admitted that Sullivan had begun emailing him, although he did not how he’d gotten the email address. “Sullivan was saying weird stuff like ‘I want to love you’ and other weird stuff,’” the affidavit states. He also requested that the boy meet with him and offered to do “whatever u want me to”. Sean said that he had told Sullivan to “stop emailing those things because it’s weird”, but the emails persisted.
Callaway obtained consent from the boy to log on and inspect his email account on March 26, 2014. Calloway located email messages between the two in which Sullivan repeatedly asks the boy to meet him, and promises the boy anything—even a car—if he lets him “love” him. Sean once again rejected his advances.
Search, Seizure, Arrest
On the basis of evidence presented in the affidavit, a search warrant was issued March 26, 2014. Sullivan was present when the warrant was executed, and due to the findings, was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography and online solicitation of a minor.
Seized in the search were several photos of young boys, VHS and 8mm tapes, a computer and a laptop, miscellaneous written notes, financial statements, passport copies, CDs and a brown paper sack containing condoms.
On May 2, 2014, Sullivan’s lawyers submitted a writ of habeas corpus to the 391st District Court in Tom Green County requesting the return of his financial statements, which were not listed on the warrant.
The court responded that the materials must be returned should the state not provide evidence of the relevancy of seizing the items as part of the investigation, and a second affidavit was filed in response for a search warrant and seizure of Sullivan’s investment account.
According to that document, Sean and his two brothers were each promised $1 million at the time of Sullivan’s death in exchange for remaining in contact and engaging in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse or sexual performance.
The oldest brother was interviewed on March 31, 2014, and stated that he knew the name of the financial advisor who was allegedly setting up trust funds for the boys. On the basis of this and previous evidence, Callaway was issued a search and seizure warrant for Sullivan’s financials on April 3, 2014.
Callaway served the warrant on the day it was issued and seized over $2.9 million in U.S. currency. A return and inventory sheet submitted on that day states that the currency will be held in an interest bearing account to ensure preservation of the assets.
Sean’s brother, who was asleep in Sullivan’s home when the first warrant was executed on March 26, was later identified in the photograph Sean had described to Callaway. In the photo the boy was estimated to be either 16 or 17 years old, and according to the affidavit, the photo was taken between Feb. 4, 2009 and Feb. 3, 2010.
According to the affidavit, another San Angelo woman came forward after reading about Sullivan’s arrest on April 2, 2014, and reported that her ex-husband had tried to pimp out their four sons to Sullivan. The reason behind the effort, the document states, was that “if they could get their kids close to Sullivan…[he] would leave them millions of dollars”.
Sullivan was never convicted of any crimes as the result of this investigation. On June 4, 2014, he died in his own home, presumably of natural causes. The information available on Sullivan through public records relative to this case includes testimony that dates back to 2009, however whether or not more victims exist and how long the alleged abuse took place is not avaiable.
Editor's Note: Child crimes and sexual abuse is a plague that unfortunately reaches every demographic. The notion that such atrocities do not take place in San Angelo is a faulty logic, as ever more cases are appearing that suggest otherwise. Due to the nature of these crimes and the ages of the victims, word often only spreads when a predator is caught and charged.
The purpose of this article is to expose the heinous allegations made against a long-time San Angelo resident with the hope of raising awareness of an underlying problem in our community. We hope that in reading this article, anyone aware of a situation that endangers a child will be compelled to seek help from professionals and report to the appropriate authorities. Rarely does only one child fall victim to a predator.
The Children’s Advocacy Center offers a wide range of services to children who are victims of different crimes. For more information on their services, call (325) 653-HOPE or visit their website here.