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Trial begins for woman charged in 2011 homicide

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, April 16, 2013, at 3:09 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, April 16, 2013, at 6:26 p.m.

Adam Barney came to court twice Tuesday – first as a defendant in a theft case and then as the star witness in a murder trial.

Barney wore a jail jumpsuit and shackles when District Judge Terry Pullman granted him probation on a 2011 attempted burglary and theft conviction.

He returned to the same courtroom an hour later in civilian clothes and described to a jury how his cousin, Desiree Boone, fired a shot that struck and killed his friend Earle Sullivan Jr.

Boone, 35, is standing trial this week for second-degree murder in the Nov. 7, 2011, death of Sullivan. Prosecutors say the killing was done “unintentionally but recklessly” and involved “extreme indifference to the value of human life.”

Wichita police said Boone fired the fatal shot during an argument with Barney in a home they shared at 1818 W. Mentor, which is about a block east of Friends University. Police said the bullet went through a wall and struck Sullivan, 47, in the head as he sat in a chair in a bedroom.

Testimony at the trial showed that Barney moved into the house about a month before the shooting at the invitation of a friend. Boone started staying in the house soon afterward with her daughter, who was nearly 2.

Shortly before the shooting, witnesses said, Barney and Sullivan were in the process of moving a table and curtains into the home. In her opening statement to the jury, Assistant District Attorney Mandee Schauf said no one has questioned the fact that Boone fired the fatal shot.

“The question isn’t, ‘Who killed Earle Sullivan?’ ” she said. “The question is to what extent should she be held accountable for her actions?”

Defense attorney Casey Cotton admitted during his opening statement that Boone was holding the gun when it went off. But he said it discharged accidentally when she was hit by a lighter that Barney threw at her as the two argued.

“Suddenly she’s hit by something, and when she’s hit the gun goes off,” he said.

Barney, the state’s second witness, told the jury he threw the lighter at Boone in fear as she pointed the gun at him. But he said he then went into his bedroom and closed the door. When he came out, he said, Boone was holding both her daughter and the gun. That’s when the gun went off, he said.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I don’t know if she was juggling the gun and the kid. I don’t know if she meant to shoot.”

During his cross-examination, Cotton suggested that Barney may have had a gun of his own in his bedroom. Barney denied having a gun, but admitted that he had some nunchucks in his room. He denied using them to threaten Boone.

“She had a .40-caliber,” he said. “I’m not going to come out with some nunchucks.”

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com.

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