Sunday 19 November 2017

Family of Irishman shot in US to bring body home for burial

Grainne Cunningham, Anne Lucey and Scott Anderson

THE family of an Irishman shot dead in California at the weekend said he had made the United States his home and loved the country he chose to settle down in.

John O'Sullivan's parents and other relatives, who are based in Valentia Island, Co Kerry, say they have still not learned the full details of the circumstances surrounding the 48-year-old's death.

His brother Alan said yesterday that John was a farmer who had his own vineyard and bred horses and that he loved the rural area of Fiddletown, Amador County, about one hour's drive from Sacramento and close to some of California's best-known ski slopes

He said that while John had not been home in 13 years, he kept in regular contact with the family, including his grandfather John William who runs the Ring Line pub on Valentia, and his mother and father Michael and Tessie.


They only heard of his sudden death when his wife Christa phoned them. "She is deeply shocked," Mr O'Sullivan said.

The family, who praised Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue and Department of Foreign Affairs liaison officers for their help, said they plan to fly out to California to bring their brother's body home for burial on the island.

A man, named by local police as Kenneth John Zimmerman, also of Fiddletown, has been arrested on suspicion of murder and is being held without bail.

According to the official police report, the Amador County Sheriff's dispatch received a 911 call from Zimmerman (56) at about 7.45pm. He said that Mr O'Sullivan, with whom he had a lengthy neighbour dispute, had driven a tractor through his locked gate, damaging his property.

Zimmerman claimed that Mr O'Sullivan struck him in the face with his open hand and tried to run over him with the tractor. During the call, he urged officers to hurry up and get there "before I shoot him".

Amador County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched. Thirteen minutes later, dispatch received another 911 call, this time from John O'Sullivan's wife Christa Clem. She said she had heard several gunshots and was unable to find her husband.

When the deputies arrived at Zimmerman's home in the valley, at eight minutes past eight, they found Zimmerman blocking the road with a vehicle.

He told them that Mr O'Sullivan was near the gate he'd destroyed with his tractor. The officers soon found the dead man, slumped on his tractor, with several gunshot wounds.

Zimmerman told the officers where they could find the pistol he'd used.

Detectives from the sheriff's office searched Zimmerman's property and home yesterday and say they are classifying the investigation as "open and ongoing".

Yesterday morning, neighbours said that the feud between Zimmerman and O'Sullivan had been going on for more than three years. All who were interviewed characterised Zimmerman as an ideal neighbour and an "extremely nice guy".

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