Former Cherry Creek Schools employee, Almeda Sullivan, facing homicide charge for overdose deaths

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. - A former Cherry Creek School District employee faces charges in connection with the overdose deaths of four people between 2008 and 2011.

Almeda Beth Sullivan, 50, reported the death of Carter Lee Higdon, 21, at her home at 7250 East Bentley Circle in Centennial on October 1, according to the arrest affidavit.

Sullivan said she left Higdon asleep in her bed that morning to take her daughter to a track meet.  Sullivan told investigators that when she returned, she found foam coming out of Higdon's mouth and could not wake him up. 

But Sullivan's 16-year-old daughter said she slept at a friend's house that night. The friend's mother, Lynn Davidson, told police she drove the girls to their track meet.

Sullivan called Higdon's mother and step-father, who came over and insisted she call 911.

The autopsy revealed Higdon had died 12-18 hours before Sullivan called police.  Toxicology tests showed elevated levels of Oxymorphone and alcohol, as well as Xanax, Trazodone, and marijuana.

Investigators found a prescription bottle of Xanax and a short straw "consistent with snorting" in Higdon's pockets. Chemical analysis of the straw found methamphetamine, Oxycodone and Oxymorphone.

Higdon's mother, Sara Donegan, told investigators her son had a previous overdose in 2007, immediately after leaving Sullivan's home.

After getting tips from two confidential informants, undercover investigators said Sullivan sold them Oxymorphone, Percocet and marijuana in two separate purchases during the month of October. 

In November, investigators searched Sullivan's home.  Investigators said Sullivan admitted to selling her own prescription pills to survive financially, and that she had done it less than 30 times.  Inside, investigators said they found multiple bottles containing Oxymorphone and Oxycontin pills, and an "owe" sheet and price-per-pill sheet. 

Almeda Sullivan was a teacher's aide at West Middle School in the Cherry Creek School District in 2004 and 2005, according to Tustin Amole with the school district. She worked in the transportation department for about a year prior to that.

Sullivan's next hearing is scheduled for July 15 at 1:30 p.m.

-- Connection to other overdose deaths --

During the initial investigation, Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office Criminalist Diane Cloyd remembered a previous suspicious death at the home, the arrest affidavit states.

That's when deputies uncovered three other deaths connected to Sullivan since 2008: Sierra Renee Cochran, 19, Lindsey Jo Saidy, 28, and Martynas "Tez" Simanskas, 20.

-- Sierra Renee Cochran 11/15/88 - 1/13/08 --

The affidavit says Sullivan's daughter found Cochran dead in their home on E. Bentley Cir. on January, 13, 2008.  The coroner's report shows Cochran died 24-36 hours before she was "discovered."  Toxicology tests revealed cocaine, Oxycodone, and other drugs.

-- Lindsey Jo Saidy 2/5/80 - 2/8/08 --

Saidy was found dead February 12, 2008, in her father and step-mother's home on East Arbor Circle in Englewood.  The autopsy showed Saidy had been dead 36-48 hours before she was found. 

Toxicology reports referenced in the affidavit revealed she died of acute Fluoxetine intoxication -- the antidepressant commonly known as Prozac. Tests also revealed possible traces of Oxycodone.

Saidy's aunt contacted authorities to explain that two of Saidy's friends, Cochran and Simanskas, had also recently died of drug overdoses -- and all three had recent contact with Sullivan.

-- Martynas "Tez" Simanskas 1/15/88 - 2/8/08 --

Simanskas was found dead the same day as Saidy.  His body was found at a friend's home on South Forest Way in Centennial. The affidavit says his death was reported within hours. Private toxicology tests showed Simanksas had a mix of drugs in his system, including Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Xanax, marijuana, and Benzoylecgonine - a byproduct of cocaine use.

Investigators searched phone records and found Simanskas called Sullivan the night before he died. Sullivan denied knowing Simanskas and told officers he may have been trying to call her son. But investigators say Sullivan's phone number was saved in Simanskas phone under the name "Ally," not her son's name.

-- Another death at the home --

Through a search of public records about 7250 East Bentley Circle, 7NEWS uncovered a fifth person who died in Sullivan's home in Centennial - Charles Everett Sullivan, 55. The date and cause of his death were not available. His relation to Almeda Sullivan is unclear.

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