In 1987, Lita McClinton Sullivan was shot to death in her Atlanta home while preparing to leave for her divorce hearing. She was divorcing her husband of 10 years, James Sullivan, for having numerous affairs (James had come into a large inheritance during his marriage to Lita, but felt that their interracial marriage was holding him back from truly fitting in with Florida’s polo set).
It would take almost 20 years and an international manhunt, but the state of Georgia finally arrested and convicted James Sullivan of hiring truck driver Philip Harwood to kill Lita before their divorce resulted in a large financial loss for Sullivan.
James Sullivan was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He filed an appeal in 1998, requesting a new trial, but that request was denied by the state of Georgia.
Philip Harwood testified against James Sullivan in exchange for a lesser charge of manslaughter. He received a 20-year sentence.
Lita’s father, Emory McClinton, a former U. S. Department of Transportation official, served on the Georgia State Transportation Board until 2013. He is still the president of Corporate Personnel Research, Inc. in Atlanta.
Lita’s mother, JoAnn McClinton, is a democratic representative in the Georgia House of Representatives. She is a board member for the East Lake Neighbors Community Association and the Southeast Energy Assistance program.
In 1994, Lita’s parents won a $4 million wrongful death judgement against James Sullivan in civil court, which was then overturned in 1997 and reinstated in 1999.
The McClintons started a scholarship fund in Lita’s name for collegiate women.
St. Martin’s True Crime published this case in its book The Palm Beach Murder.