NBC15 in Mobile reported that authorities believe the motive for the killing may have been a fight over who got to keep Samuel and Terri Sullivan's home. The couple were in the process of divorcing, and a judge ordered the couple to have the property appraised and sold a week before Terri Sullivan vanished.
Washington County Sheriff Richard Stringer offered his opinion on motive.
"My opinion -- this is strictly my opinion at this point -- it was greed," Stringer told the news station. "The land, the property, the house, all the assets."
According to NamUs, a national clearinghouse of information on missing people and unidentified remains, Terri Sullivan, 45, also of Wilmer, was reported missing after she left her mother's home in the rural Tibbie community around 4:30 a.m. and failed to show up for work at Springhill Medical Center, located about an hour away in Mobile. Her cellphone, a bracelet and other belongings were found on the dirt road leading to her mother's house.
AL.com reported that blood was also found on the roadway that morning. Her worried family, which includes two adult children, reported her missing.
Terri Sullivan's son, Christian Taylor, told Fox10 in Mobile the week after she disappeared that people don't usually vanish from Tibbie.
"This doesn't even happen in this community. This is a shock to the entire community," Taylor said. "This is one of those things that you're like, 'Oh, that's just on TV,' you know, but that would never happen here.
“Here we are, sitting here, waiting to hear something,” he said, his voice breaking.
There was no sign of Terri Sullivan or her rental car, a 2018 Chevy Impala, until the night of March 28, when a resident riding an all-terrain vehicle found the burned-out car in a wooded area of Grand Bay in neighboring Mobile County. Human remains were also found.
“There are partial remains inside the vehicle and there are some remains outside the vehicle,” Capt. Paul Burch of the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office said. “The remains also appear to have been burned, but they’re scattered.”
“It’s clearly been here for some time,” Burch said of the vehicle.
Terri Sullivan's sister, Tina Parnell, wrote on Facebook that a 15-year-old boy stumbled upon the crime scene. She asked her friends to pray for him, as well as her family and law enforcement officers working her sister's case.
State forensics experts are still working on a positive identification of the remains found with the rental car.
Below: Watch Capt. Paul Burch address the media from the scene where Terri Sullivan’s car was found.
Stringer told Mobile's WKRG in January that foul play was immediately suspected in Terri Sullivan's disappearance. Stringer told the news station Thursday that the arrests were in the works for a while.
"It just finally all come together last week, so we decided to go ahead and make the arrests. We have the evidence," Stringer said. "They were suspected. We just needed the evidence."
Following the arrests, which took place at Samuel Sullivan’s home, investigators executed a search warrant and found additional evidence, the sheriff said.
"We had some other evidence that we were looking for that we didn't need it, but it certainly … reinforced the case, and we were able to find that today," Stringer told the news station.
AL.com reported that each defendant was granted a $60,000 bond on the kidnapping charge, but no bond was granted on the capital murder charge.
Terri Sullivan's daughter, Shawnee Taylor, told Fox10 in February that her mother would always let her know where she was going. The evidence found at the scene of her apparent abduction left the family heartsick.
"The last time I called her phone to get ahold of her, a deputy answered," Taylor told another news station, WKRG.
Taylor described her mother as her best friend. She said Terri Sullivan was also a dedicated nurse.
"Her work is all she really had. It's what kept her busy," Taylor told Fox10. "She loved her patients. All her patients loved her. She made sure she did her job and she did it well."
The grieving daughter told WKRG her mother was too good of a person to have someone do her harm.
"She never did any wrong by anybody," she said.