UPDATE | Monique Sullivan apologizes after receiving life sentence

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News 12 / Thursday, July 23, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A judge has sentenced Monique Sullivan life in prison with the possibility of parole.

It was almost a merciful sentence for the woman who was found guilty of killing Amelia Hiltz and injuring five others after driving nearly 3 miles in the wrong direction down Riverwatch Parkway in 2012. Cars swerved to avoid her before she crashed head-on into Amelia Hiltz's car.

Sullivan will have a chance of parole in 30 years. Life in prison with the possibility of parole is the minimum sentence for felony murder charges. The state asked for life plus 20 years.

People who saw the crash might disagree.

The state opened today's hearing by saying the line between right and wrong, between order and chaos in this case is as clearly defined as the steel guardrail dividing Riverwatch Parkway.

Amelia Hiltz, a mother of two, died from her injuries. Augusta attorney Maureen Floyd and Kevin Mullenhour were seriously injured.

Before the sentence was handed down, the court heard from several people on behalf of the state.

"How could any human being do this to another human being?" Elliott Sapp said during the sentencing hearing

Elliott Sapp held Amelia's hand after the crash while she was critically injured in her car.

"I'm angry. As a husband and a father, I'm angry. Angry that the image I have of Amelia Hiltz will always be one of pain and suffering," Sapp said.

Floyd is having another surgery Monday to fuse her neck and asked if she die during surgery, the judge would make sure this ends here today.

But perhaps the most heartbreaking moment, was hearing from Amelia Hiltz's husband, Dr. William Hiltz. On the two-year anniversary of his wife's death, he told a story of their daughter and how on her birthday she wished to die so she "could see her mommy."

Sullivan's friends and family all apologized for her actions. One said, "this is a hard situation and nobody wins," and, " she is not this monster people are making her out to be."

The defense tried to paint Sullivan as sympathetic, too.

"Your Honor, we saw a week-long testimony about the incident during the trial. One thing we didn't see or hear about or learn about was anything about Mrs. Sullivan," defense attorney Sadeer Sabbak said.

They flashed pictures of her life and family for the courtroom to see and reminded them of the other child who would be missing a mother if Sullivan goes to jail for life.

For the first time, the court finally heard from Sullivan herself.

"I'm very sorry for the pain and suffering that everybody's had to go through, and I thank you again for forgiving me," Sullivan said as she faced the judge, head down.

Judge J. David Roper ended the hearing saying, "I have agonized for the people affected by this and I have agonized from the Sullivan and her family and I have agonized over the sentence I have to impose today."

Judge Roper sentenced her to the following:

Count 1: Felony Murder: Life with the possibility of parole
Count 2: Aggravated Assault against Maureen Floyd: 20 years, to be served concurrent with the first count
Count 3: Aggravated Assault against Kevin Mullenhour: 20 years, to be served concurrent with first count
Count 4: Reckless Conduct: 12 months, to be served concurrent with first count
Count 5: Reckless Conduct: 12 months, to be served concurrent with first count
Count 6-7: found not guilty because they were lesser charges
Count 8: Cruelty to Children in 2nd Degree: 10 years, to be served concurrent with first count
Count 9: Traffic Offenses

    - Driving the Wrong Way: 12 months, to be served concurrent
    - Speeding: 12 months, to be served concurrent
    - Failure to Obey Traffic Signs: 12 months, to be served concurrent

UPDATE: Monday June 22, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The date for the sentencing hearing for Monique Sullivan has been determined. Judge J. David Roper announced it will be on July 23, at 9:30 in the morning.

Sullivan was found guilty of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of reckless conduct, cruelty to children in the 2nd degree, and traffic violations. She drove the wrong way on Riverwatch Parkway back in December 2012, killing Amelia Hiltz, and injuring five others.

UPDATE: Friday June 19, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A Richmond County jury says a woman drove the wrong way on Riverwatch Parkway killing a woman and injuring others.

Jurors also found Sullivan guilty of two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of reckless conduct, cruelty to children in the 2nd degree, and traffic violations.

She will be sentenced at a later date.

News 12 is working to get more information and will pass any new details along as soon as they are available.

UPDATE: Friday, June 19, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A jury expects to begin deliberations today in Monique Sullivan's murder trial.

Both the prosecution and the defense presenting their closing arguments today.

Along with murder, Sullivan is also being charged with aggravated assault for each victim deputies say she injured by driving the wrong-way on Riverwatch Parkway.

Prosecutors claim Sullivan was not distracted and has not been able to give a reason why she was driving the wrong way in December 2012.

Our reporter in the courtroom says there is a large crowd today.

UPDATE: Thursday, June 18, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A mother is one day closer to learning her fate after deputies say she drove the wrong way down Riverwatch Parkway causing a deadly accident.

It was an unexpectedly short day in day four of the trial. Monique Sullivan sat quietly as the state called their last three witnesses, leaving the most heart-wrenching for last.

Amelia Hiltz's husband, Dr. William Hiltz, described how he found out about his wife the day of the crash.

He said his wife was going to Mother's Day Out at Trinity on the Hill and then heading to Earth Fare to get organic snacks for the kids. Riverwatch was her route home.

He told the jury he got a call from the school when his wife had not picked up their children. When he called her phone, a doctor picked up and asked him who he was and how he was related to "this patient."

At that point, Dr. Hiltz, a vascular surgeon in Augusta, identified himself and told the doctor he "better start talking and better have a good story."

Hiltz said as the doctor described the accident and all of his wife's injuries, he told the doctor to "stop talking," saying "at that point I knew she was essentially dead."

Hands and arms were wrapped around family members in the front row of the gallery, bracing for comfort in the memory of that tragic day.

After Dr. Hiltz's testimony, the state rested its case.

Before Hiltz took the stand, the jury heard from two doctors. First, they heard from the doctor who treated Maureen Floyd, the Augusta attorney, who was placed in a chemically induced coma for several weeks.

He described a complicated ICU stay, where Floyd had to have a tracheostomy, a procedure to remove blood that was outside of her lung keeping her from breathing, a surgery to repair a torn aorta, and frequent sedation.

They also heard from the doctor who treated Amelia Hiltz right before she died.

The doctor carefully described Amelia's condition as a "persistent vegetative state." He told the jury she could not communicate, walk, or follow commands. He explained that because she was unable to swallow correctly, bacteria kept getting into her lungs, causing chronic bronchitis and eventually pneumonia.

He said all of that was because of the traumatic brain injury she suffered from the crash. As she got worse, the doctor said he admitted her to the hospital, mostly as a courtesy to Dr. Hiltz, her husband. She died a few days later.

As for Sullivan, the only time we heard from her was when the judge asked, "Have you made a decision about whether you are going to take the stand or not?"
"I've made a decision," Sullivan replied.
"And what is that decision?" Judge Roper asked her.
"No sir," she said, shaking her head.
"You're not going to take the stand?" Judge Roper confirmed.
"No sir," Sullivan replied.
"All right then," Judge Roper said.

While Monique Sullivan did not take the stand, neither did anyone else for the defense.

As soon as the state rested, so did the defense. The jury was excused before 11 a.m.

Closing arguments will start at 9:30 Friday morning.

After the jury was excused, the attorneys on both sides met with Judge Roper to discuss the exact charges Sullivan will face. Some require the state to prove intent, while others only require proof of negligence.

Sullivan faces 1 charge of Felony Murder and 4 charges of Aggravated Assault. Both of those charges require proof of intent.

Vehicular homicide, on the other hand, only requires proof of negligence. So does Cruelty to Children in the 2nd degree. Sullivan faces one charge of each.

Sullivan also faces several traffic charges including 1 serious injury by vehicle, 1 running a red light, 1 speeding, and 1 driving the wrong way charge.

Attorneys for the state are District Attorney Ashley Wright and Pete Lamb. Attorneys defending Sullivan include Sadeer Sabbak, John Kraft, and Holly Chapman.

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, June 17, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- It's day three in the trial of a woman accused of driving the wrong way down Riverwatch Parkway, causing a deadly accident.

Today, the people who were caught up in the accident took the stand. Because of the judge's ruling, you won't see or hear from any of the witnesses.

"The evidence you will give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God," Judge Roper said to a witness as he was sworn in.

There were lots of tears today as people involved in the accident began to testify. Every person on the stand either narrowly missed a head-on collision, was in the accident, or drove up on the wreckage moments later.

"After you've seen all this evidence, the state will come back and ask that you find the defendant guilty of the murder of Amelia Hiltz, four counts of aggravated assault, cruelty to children, and the associated traffic charges," the District Attorney's Office said to the jury.

That defendant is Monique Sullivan, the driver of the tan SUV that witnesses say was "flying down Riverwatch" going the wrong direction the morning of December 10, 2012.

One by one, drivers who encountered her took the stand, pointing out exactly where their experience was on Riverwatch Parkway.

"This is the state's exhibit. Can you identify that as part of Riverwatch?" D.A. Ashley Wright asked one witness.

All of the witnesses who took the stand claimed if they hadn't swerved, it would have been them in the head-on collision.

One witness says he called out to Sullivan's 4-year-old son after the child crawled out of the window and almost into oncoming traffic.

A woman involved remembers hearing the crash before seeing it, describing it as a "twisting metal on metal" sound. She said the impact felt like a "car falling out of the sky onto me." Because of the crash, she was on a ventilator, had a ripped aorta, underwent a tracheotomy, and was placed in a chemically induced coma for three weeks.

One man says it shook him up so badly he hasn't owned a car since the accident.

Whether we hear from Monique herself is still a question.

"Later in this trial I will have to ask you if you wish to take the witness stand," Judge Roper said to Sullivan.

The jury did hear a recording, though, between Sullivan and investigators. In the recording, Sullivan says she doesn't remember anything, saying "I'm trying to figure out why I was on that highway."

At the end she even admits "It's negligence on my part because I don't know why I did it. It's my fault. It was truly a traffic accident."

The state did most of the questioning today. The defense would ask certain witnesses the same few questions, which were 'Was the car driving erratically?' and 'Did Sullivan veer toward your car?'

Each one said, besides the high speed, no.

Sullivan's husband was a passenger in her car along with her 3-year-old son. We will have to wait and see if he takes the stand.

Also, Judge Roper announced this morning the juror who was dismissed for continuing to fall asleep is a severe diabetic and was having problems in court Tuesday.

Judge Roper's wife, who is a registered nurse, helped care for the juror.

UPDATE: Wednesday, June 17, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Everybody who testified in court today was involved in the accident, either by narrowly missing the accident, actually being involved, or driving up on it moments after it happened.

One witness who took the stand this morning described hearing the accident as twisting medal on medal. She later described the impact she had herself as having a car falling out of the sky onto her.

Another witness recalled bringing a child to safety from the scene of the accident, after crawling out of a window.

News 12 will be inside the courtroom all day, with full coverage of today's events.

News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, June 16, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Court has adjourned for day two of the trial of Monique Sullivan.

But, when they start again at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, it'll be with one alternate juror. One juror has been dismissed for continuing to fall asleep.

A mother is on trial for a crash that sent six people to the hospital and killed a mother of two.

The state is trying to prove Monique Sullivan purposely drove the wrong way on Riverwatch Parkway back in December 2012, even with her two kids and husband in the car with her.

News 12 was in court as attorneys gave their opening statements.

"Two tiny legs." Those were the first words the jury heard as the state made its opening statement. It was a piercing reference to the 4-year-old son in Monique Sullivan's car at the time of the crash.

"He ran to that vehicle in time to see little 4-year-old Journey Sullivan crawl from underneath that wreckage and crawl from underneath the Riverwatch guardrail," the state said.

Monique Sullivan is on trial for felony murder, aggravated assault, cruelty to children and other traffic citations for the 2012 crash. The state is trying to prove she did it on purpose.

"Ran the red light there and traveled onto the wrong side of the road. . . with a left turn arrow and big painted white 'X'," the state said during opening statements.

The defense says Sullivan is from Beech Island and did not know the area.

The state says Sullivan drove down the exit ramp of Riverwatch Parkway at the intersection of Broad and Greene Streets. Deputies say she then drove 2.8 miles in the wrong direction before slamming head-on into a car.

"As the defendant is rounding the curve, she meets Amelia Hiltz head on at 76 miles per hour," the state said.

Hiltz eventually died from her injuries.

For some, the trial is almost as tough as the day of the crash. This time in a courtroom, many are reliving the day they want to forget.

One of the toughest moments of the day was hearing three 911 calls. In one call you could hear the witness crying, nearly hyperventilating, as she described the scene before her. It was obvious it shook up people in the gallery and the witness on the stand hearing it back.

Besides the 911 calls, the jury saw pictures of the scene, a recreation of the route deputies say Sullivan took, and an animation of how the crash looked based on data points gathered at the scene. All of that is for the state's case.

The defense, on the other hand, is arguing this is just a tragic accident, not murder or aggravated assault. The defense claims that, other than the fact she was on the wrong side of the road, Sullivan's driving was fine.

That, however, is for the jury to decide.

UPDATE: Tuesday, June 16, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Opening statements for the woman accused of driving the wrong way on Riverwatch Parkway back in December 2012 began Tuesday. Monique Sullivan is facing charges including aggravated assault and cruelty to children.

Emotional testimony from witnesses as they recalled what took place during accident. Other evidence that was brought before the court thus far was the three 911 calls from witnesses of the crash.

People in the courtroom were able to watch a recreation of the crash that a deputy made of him going the wrong way. He recorded it on his in-car camera in order to show what it would look like.

Monday, June 15, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The jury for a woman standing trial for a murder case in 2012 has been selected. According to News 12 reporters in the courtroom Monday, opening statements for Monique Sullivan's trial will be Tuesday.

Sullivan is accused of driving the wrong way on Riverwatch Parkway resulting in the death of one person and injuring five others. Investigators say Sullivan's husband and son were also in the car at the time.

Amelia Hiltz was the woman killed during that incident. Sullivan is also charged with aggravated assault and cruelty to children.

News 12 will have reporters in the courtroom for those opening statements tomorrow.

Friday, Sept. 20, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Monique Sullivan has been taken into custody on a Grand Jury arrest warrant for murder.

The warrant was issued during the week of Sept. 9.

Authorities say Sullivan drove the wrong way on Riverwatch Parkway last December, causing a multi-car accident that injured several people.

Amelia Mayhall Hiltz died from her injuries in that accident back in July.

Sullivan has not been re-processed through the jail on the upgraded murder charges.

Sullivan is also charged with aggravated assault, child cruelty and serious injury by vehicle.

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