Mitchell victim tells the jury of her assault |

Mitchell victim tells the jury of her assault

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

In 1979, Jannine Sullivan was a 22-year-old San Jose State University student when she met David Winfield Mitchell at a party in Santa Clara, Calif.

She described him as being aggressive, persistent, leering. When he asked her to dance, she agreed so as not to appear prejudiced, she said. When he asked her for her number, she gave it to him so he would go away.

“Then he pretty much stalked me for over a week,” Sullivan recalled.

After the week of harassment, Mitchell showed up at Sullivan’s apartment and pushed past her sister Roseanne who’d answered the door. Sullivan said she told him he had to leave because they were getting ready for work.

“At that point he pulled a knife out of a bag and grabbed me and held a knife to my throat,” she said.

Mitchell then walked Sullivan into the kitchen where Roseanne was and ordered both women into a bedroom. On the way past the stereo, Sullivan recalled, Mitchell ordered her sister to grab the cord to the stereo headphones.

Sullivan said inside the room, Mitchell ordered her at knife point to tie her sisters hands together, then once that was done, he began to rip at her sister’s clothing.

“He proceeded to take the knife and cut at her blouse,” she said.

Sullivan said when that wasn’t working very well, Mitchell put the knife into the pocket of his sweatshirt.

“And that’s when I went for the knife and he turned around and went right for my throat and I plunged the knife right into his back,” she said. “And from then on the fight was on.”

With Sullivan running from Mitchell down the hall, and her sister with her hands still tied chasing him, the trio ended up in the living room. There, Mitchell grabbed a large bottle and struck Sullivan over the head.

“Then I was just in the survival mode. I picked up a plate-glass tabletop and when he came at me I just hit him over the head and it stunned him enough and I was able to get out the front door and run across the street,” she said.

Sullivan said Mitchell fled the home and nine months later, he was captured.

Mitchell eventually pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment. The prosecution dismissed a charge of attempted rape.

Mitchell was sentenced to three years in prison. Sullivan said she is unsure if he even served a full year.

Sullivan began to cry after the sentencing of David Winfield Mitchell when asked how Mitchell’s assault on her and her sister in 1979 had affected her.

A soft-spoken woman who lives in the Midwest now, where she raises her four children, Sullivan said she never spent another night in that apartment and with only one year left, she quit college. It would be two years before Sullivan felt safe enough to return and get her degree in elementary education and theater.

She said there’s a lesson for other girls in what happened to her.

“Don’t be so naive,” Sullivan warned, blaming herself for giving in to Mitchell’s demands for her home number. “I was stupid.”