Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced that Divina Marie Sulentich, age 40, of West St. Paul has been charged* with one count of Murder in the Second Degree (With Intent to Kill) in connection with the strangulation death of her aunt Mary Susan Sulentich, age 60, also of West St. Paul, which occurred on July 8 or 9, 2017.
A summary of the allegations in the complaint includes:
On July 12, 2017, a witness entered Mary Sulentich’s apartment to conduct a welfare check on the victim. Upon entering the apartment, the witness found the victim dead and called 911. When officers arrived they found the victim lying on her back on a bed. The cause of death was not readily apparent. The witness who located the body told police that the victim’s niece had been living with her since April to assist her following knee surgery. It was determined that West St. Paul police officers had previously been dispatched to the apartment on July 8th at approximately 10:30 p.m. after the victim reported she was having an argument with her niece.
The defendant was located and interviewed. She said that after police officers left the apartment on the evening of July 8th, she also left and went to the community room in the apartment building, but later returned. Upon her return, the defendant said she saw the victim holding a cell phone. The victim threatened to tell others about the defendant’s illegal purchases of Vicodin and from whom she was purchasing it. The defendant said she took the victim’s cell phone from her and broke it in half. She said she grabbed and shook the victim, and as they struggled they eventually ended up on the victim’s bed. The defendant said she was on top of the victim and squeezed the victim’s neck until she went limp. She told police she stayed in the apartment all day on July 9th, contemplating what she should do, and then left in the victim’s car on July 10th without reporting her death.
The medical examiner determined that the cause of the victim’s death was fractured thyroid cartilages on each side of her neck. These injuries were determined to be consistent with manual strangulation.
Additional facts pertaining to this case can be found in the criminal complaint which is available online at: Criminal Complaint Search.
Backstrom commented: "Sadly, this appears to be another case involving domestic violence that has resulted in death."
On behalf of everyone involved in the investigation and prosecution of this case, Backstrom expressed his deep sympathy to the family and friends of Mary Sulentich for their great loss.
Backstrom thanked the West St. Paul Police Department for their investigation in this case and the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office Electronic Crimes Unit for their work on the case. If you have questions, contact James Backstrom at 651-438-4440.
*Criminal charges are not evidence of guilt. A defendant/suspect is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.