Anthony "Jack" Sully, a one-time Millbrae police officer who became, with the help of some accomplices, a notorious local serial killer of the early 1980s, has died of natural causes, according to an announcement from the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
His death occurred on September 8, at the San Quentin Rehabilitation Center, and he had spent 37 years on San Quentin's death row.
The story of Sully's murder spree is sordid and bizarre, and involves a lot of cocaine and the help of friends and sex workers, at least three of whom actively participated in a couple of the murders. Sully owned a warehouse in Burlingame where all of the killings took place, and the first was a sex worker, 24-year-old Gloria Jean Fravel.
Fravel was brought to the warehouse by Tina Livingston, a partner in an escort service who met Sully in 1982. Fravel reportedly owed Livingston $500, and along with another sex worker, Keli "Angel" Burns, Livingston brought Fravel to Sully apparently to torture her — and the torture was happening in the back of Sully's warehouse over the course of a weekend while Livingston and Burns sat out front, presumably doing cocaine.
The coke-fueled murder spree continued after Sully sought a second victim through Livingston, who brought him 19-year-old Brenda Oakden — a young punk-rock enthusiast who had worked for Livingston's escort service just once. Sully told Livingston to tell Oakden's roommate, who was Livingston's receptionist, that Oakden had gotten on a bus out of town.
According to court testimony from Livingston, Sully told her of the second murder, "that the only difference between killing someone now and killing someone as a policeman" was that the police had permission to do it.
Sully later killed a pimp and his sex worker, Michael Thomas, 24, and Phyllis Melendez, 20, and stuffed their bodies along with Oakden's into metal drums that he filled with concrete. He later sought advice in how to dispose of the barrels, because they were "stinking up" his warehouse, and all three were dumped in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
Fingerprints on the barrels would later serve as some of the main physical evidence in the case.
22-year-old Barbara Searcy, who went to Sully's warehouse seeking money he owed her, was killed in August 1983. Sully's last known victim was Kathryn Barrett, a known coke dealer, whom Sully killed with the help of friend Michael Francis — after the two decided to steal drugs from Barrett. Livingston would testify that she came to the warehouse after dropping Barrett off there and witnessed Francis stabbing her, but she was moaning and still alive. Disgusted that his friend couldn't finish the job, Sully reportedly took Barrett in back and smashed her skull with a sledgehammer, which Francis then relayed to Livingston.
Two ex-wives of Sully would testify in the sentencing phase that he was brutally abusive, and one said he had threatened the life of her and her daughter.
While Sully claimed his innocence to the six murders in court, and even gave a 40-minute speech at his sentencing hearing reiterating that he didn't do it, he was convicted in large part based on testimony from Livingston, who took a plea deal. She ultimately received a three-year sentence for being an accessory.
Burns, who was convicted of the murders of Thomas, Melendez, and Oakden, received a sentence of 25 years to life and was paroled in 2016. Francis would receive the same sentence, but has remained in prison and was denied parole in 2020.
Sully appealed his death sentence up until 10 years ago, when the Ninth Circuit denied his appeal on the basis that he was mentally ill at the time of the crimes. In part they cited his lucid statement in court in the sentencing phase for proof that he was fully aware and cognizant of his crimes.