Jury takes less than four hours to pronounce death sentence
RENO, Nev. (AP) – A jury that took fewer than two hours to find Siaosi Vanisi guilty of hacking a University of Nevada, Reno police sergeant to death needed less than four hours to recommend that he die for his crime.
Vanisi, 29, showed no emotion when the clerk read the sentence Wednesday afternoon.
Carolyn Sullivan, the widow of Sgt. George Sullivan, tearfully thanked the people who supported her and the couple’s children through two trials.
”It prevents Siaosi Vanisi from hurting another family as he has devastated mine,” she said tearfully.
District Attorney Richard Gammick, a former police officer, betrayed a rare hint of emotion following the verdict.
”It strikes close to home. That’s all you’re going to get out of me or you’re going to start me crying,” he told reporters.
Vanisi blamed drug use, a lack of sleep and mental illness in a statement to the jury and apologized to the Sullivan family and his own family for what they have been through since the hatchet assault in January 1988.
The jury convicted Vanisi last week. Formal sentencing is set for Nov. 22. Washoe District Judge Connie Steinheimer also will pronounce sentence for armed robbery and grand larceny convictions returned by the jurors.
Vanisi’s first trial ended in a mistrial nine months ago after it was discovered that a key word had been transcribed incorrectly in police records.
Witnesses testified that he repeatedly told them he wanted to kill a cop in the days before the death of the 19-year veteran of the UNR police force who left behind five children and his widow.
Sullivan was struck with more than 20 blows from the hatchet while he sat doing paperwork in his squad car just past midnight on Jan. 13, 1998.
Vanisi also was found guilty of two armed robberies committed the next day with Sullivan’s .45-caliber service revolver.
The killing on the UNR campus, where a monument now memorializes Sullivan, touched off an intense manhunt. Vanisi was arrested two days later after a shootout with police during a standoff at a cousin’s apartment in Salt Lake City.