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Ryan Johnson, Published June 16 2013

Moorhead native killed; boyfriend suspect in shooting

MOORHEAD – Jim Sullivan said there were no warning signs that tragedy was in store for sister Nancy Sullivan, the oldest of the five Sullivan siblings who were born and raised in south Moorhead.

“She was always in a good mood,” he said. “When she’d call me, she’d usually be going to work, and there was nothing ever that would indicate what happened.”

She told him she wanted to leave her live-in boyfriend of several years, 65-year-old Johnny Simpson. On June 4, she started moving out of the house they shared in Shoreview, Minn. – but never had a chance to finish.

Police responded to a 911 call, arriving at the home to find their bodies, and authorities have named Simpson as the suspected shooter. Nancy Sullivan was 57 years old.

Two others were injured – her daughter and boyfriend, the parents of one of her granddaughters.

Younger brother Tom Sullivan said it’s been “devastating” for the family, including his three children who adored the aunt that had become a sort of grandparent to them and frequently visited them in New Jersey after their grandmother died.

“It’s been rough for everybody,” he said.

A memorial service and reception will be held at 5 p.m. July 12 at the International Market Square in Minneapolis. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo bank to the “Nancy’s Treasures Memorial Fund” to benefit her children and grandchildren.

A helping person

Jim Sullivan said he always knew his older sister was bound for greatness.

“She just helped everybody,” he said. “That was her nature.”

After earning an English degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead, she graduated with a law degree from the University of North Dakota in 1980 and started her career in Fargo and Brainerd, Minn.

She eventually moved to the Twin Cities and found success in her work, rising to the role of partner in Minneapolis law firm Barnes and Thornburg.

But Jim Sullivan said she also developed a reputation in the community for giving back, whether it was her pro bono work for the Children’s Law Center or her service to several local organizations. He said they managed to keep in touch, despite their distance with him living in Williston, and they often spent time together in Arizona, where they both had condos in the same association.

Tom Sullivan said his sister, 11 years older than him, often took care of him and the other siblings when their parents weren’t around. That dedication to family stuck around into her adulthood, and he said she found time for her loved ones even with her busy career.

Her children, Danny Fay and Katie Fay, both live in the Twin Cities area and each have a daughter, and he said his sister was a proud grandmother.

Tom Sullivan said Katie Fay and her boyfriend, Tony Brown, were at the Shoreview house on June 4 to help her mother load up a moving truck. Both were injured in the shooting, and Katie Fay remains in St. Paul’s Regions Hospital.

He said Fay is “getting much better.” But she was shot six times, and he said there’s no word yet when she’ll get out of the hospital.

“It’s going to be a long haul for her,” he said.

In an undated entry on CaringBridge.org, Lee Latham wrote that Brown was shot four times but was in stable condition. He said Fay had already undergone two surgeries for her injuries.

“We know that after her recovery she will be back to the same old Katie,” Latham wrote.

Tom Sullivan said he’ll remember Nancy Sullivan as someone who “loved life” and valued family, a sentiment that his brother echoed in his description of his older sister.

“I think she just enjoyed being around people, and I think most people just really enjoyed being around her,” Jim Sullivan said. “She was just a nice person and if she could lend a hand, she would.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587