A former administrative secretary hired under former Police Chief Dan Boring, pleaded not guilty during Tuesday’s arraignment in Culpeper County Circuit Court to six felony forgery charges related to allegedly altering the personnel records of her son, an ex-officer for the Culpeper PD.
Bethany Sullivan, 55, of Orange is the mother of former Culpeper Police Officer Daniel Harmon-Wright, 33, accused of murder in the Feb. 9 shooting death of Patricia Ann Cook, 54.
In May, a special grand jury indicted Harmon-Wright on the murder charge and at the same time his mother on the forgery charges.
According to the special prosecutor in both cases, Fauquier County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Fisher, through the course of the special grand jury’s investigation into Harmon-Wright’s fatal shooting of Cook, evidence came to light concerning Sullivan’s reported role in forging her son’s files in an attempt to purge them of negative information.
According to indictments handed down against Sullivan, she is accused of forging and/or altering Harmon-Wright’s 1) Town of Culpeper performance evaluation for Aug. 31, 2006-Aug. 30, 2007; 2) an email from April 30, 2008 and 3) a Town of Culpeper Police Department Entrance Exam.
According to Fisher, the alleged forgeries by Sullivan were unrelated to the Feb. 9 shooting by her son of Cook of Culpeper, a retired cosmetologist active in the children’s ministry at Culpeper United Methodist Church.
Mother-son work history
Sullivan worked as administrative secretary at the Culpeper PD from September 2002 through July 2010, and was hired under former Police Chief Dan Boring, now a Culpeper Town Councilman.
Boring hired Harmon-Wright – a fellow U.S. Marine – in August 2006, reportedly rejecting the recommendations of his command staff, who had expressed concerns that Harmon-Wright, an Iraq War veteran, was not an appropriate candidate for police officer due to his “dress, demeanor, attitude, and most importantly his admission of severe alcohol abuse,” according to the former officer’s personnel file.
Boring retired in January 2007 soon after Harmon-Wright came on board, serving first under former Police Chief Scott Barlow, who retired in 2010, and then under current Culpeper Police Chief Chris Jenkins, one of the former command staff who advised Boring not to hire Harmon-Wright.
“Both of the [officers] would state that Harmon-Wright was hired despite their recommendation and that this was the first and only time either could recall having such a recommendation reversed,” Fisher wrote in his motion opposing bail.
Councilman Boring has refused to address why he hired Harmon-Wright anyway, but a source close to the case has said the former police chief was doing “a favor” for his secretary, Mrs. Sullivan.
The town of Culpeper suspended Harmon-Wright with pay from the police force following the Feb. 9 shooting on East Street that occurred during the course of an apparent altercation initiating in the parking lot of a Catholic school when class was in session. Following the May murder indictment, the officer was immediately fired.
Harmon-Wright was freed from jail in June on $100,000 secured bond. He has a wife and baby son.
The defense contends Harmon-Wright was defending himself when he fired his department-issued Glock seven times, and that Mrs. Cook was trying to kill or hurt him with her vehicle after she trapped his hand in the driver’s side window of her 2007 Jeep, engaging in an alternating stop and go pattern designed to do him harm.
The prosecution contends Harmon-Wright had freed himself when the fatal shots were fired. According to Fisher, Harmon-Wright initially fired his gun twice at the driver’s side window behind which Cook was sitting, striking her and inflicting non-fatal wounds. Harmon-Wright allegedly fired five more times as Cook attempted to drive away.
“He stepped into the street behind the motor vehicle and fired an additional five shots,” Fisher said at a hearing opposing bond.
One of the bullets hit the back of Cook’s head, lodging in her brain and another fatal shot severed her spine, going into her heart and lungs, Fisher said. The bullets came through the rear of Cook’s Jeep Wrangler, Fisher said, through the headrest and back of the seat in which she was sitting.
“That is intolerable to the community – to have that set of circumstances,” he said. “At this point, multiple witnesses have reported that Harmon-Wright advanced his position into the roadway behind the vehicle and discharged five additional shots from behind the Jeep into the back of Mrs. Cook, who was later pronounced dead as a result of this second volley of gunfire.”
Harmon-Wright, like his mother, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. The former Culpeper Police Office’s murder trial will be held in Culpeper County Circuit Court beginning Jan. 22, 2013.
Cook’s family, in addition, is seeking $5.35 million in a wrongful death suit, which will be heard after the criminal matter.
In May, Gary Cook filed the civil suit in the matter claiming Harmon-Wright bullied and coerced his wife of nearly eight years before she attempted to flee and was shot dead on a residential street – two days after her birthday.
However, Gary Cook was found dead in September, apparently of natural causes, in the Friendship Heights apartment he had shared with his wife. Patricia Cook’s brother is now representing her estate in pursuing the wrongful death suit.
Samuel Higginbotham, of Orange, is representing Sullivan.
Daniel Hawes, of Broad Run, is representing Harmon-Wright. The town of Culpeper will pay for Harmon-Wright’s defense in the civil suit; Virginia Municipal League is providing the civil defense through attorney Julia Judkins, of Fairfax, with who Hawes is working on both cases.