West St. Paul woman sentenced for killing aunt

Aunt threatened to out her illegal drug use


A former West St. Paul woman was sentenced Sept. 17 to more than 20 years in prison for killing her aunt, who threatened to report the woman’s illegal drug use.

Divina Marie Sulentich, 41, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Aug. 29 and admitted to strangling her aunt, 60-year-old Mary Susan Sulentich, in July 2017 at the older woman’s West St. Paul apartment.

According to the criminal complaint, on July 12, 2017, a witness entered Mary Sulentich’s apartment to conduct a welfare check and upon entering found her dead. When officers arrived, they found Mary Sulentich lying on her back on a bed, but her cause of death was not readily apparent. The witness told police Mary Sulentich’s niece had been living with her since April. 

West St. Paul police officers had previously been dispatched to the apartment on July 8 around 10:30 a.m., after Mary Sulentich reported she was having an argument with her niece. 

Sulentich was located and interviewed. She said that after police left the apartment on July 8, she left and went to the community room in the building, but later returned.

Upon returning she said she saw her aunt holding a cellphone and she was threatening to tell others about Sulentich’s illegal purchase of Vicodin, and from whom she was buying it.

Sulentich said she took her aunt’s cellphone and broke it before grabbing and shaking the her.

According to the complaint, as the two struggled they ended up on the Mary Sulentich’s bed with Sulentich on top, who then choked her aunt until she went limp.

Sulentich told police she stayed in the apartment all day on July 9 contemplating what to do, before leaving in her aunt’s car on July 10, without reporting the killing.

“This was a domestic-related assault that senselessly resulted in the loss of a life in our community. We are pleased to have brought Divina Sulentich to justice for this violent crime,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said in a news release.


— Hannah Burlingame 

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