Murdered Kerry man's family fears they may lose California home


The family of the Kerry man who was shot dead in California in August may lose their home and business if they don’t receive a bailout in the next few weeks.

Krista Clem O’Sullivan, the wife of 47-year-old John Michael O’Sullivan, who was shot dead by his neighbor after a dispute in August, told IrishCentral’s sister publication the Irish Voice on Tuesday that she is beside herself with worry about the future of her children.

The ranch that Clem O’Sullivan shared with her husband and four children in Fiddletown, Amador County in California, and their second home in Shelter Cove (which they rent out as a vacation home), are under serious threat of being repossessed.

Clem O’Sullivan can’t afford the mortgage of both houses. The bank has given her until January 5 to come up with a payment plan.

“The mortgage company was working with John with respect to the home loan but it doesn't look like they are going to work with me,” said the worried widow.

Clem O’Sullivan, 43, said the death of her husband has been “overwhelming.”

“I am just so tired trying to do everything,” said Clem O’Sullivan, a native Californian who married John in 2006.   

“We helped each other with everything, farm stuff, the businesses, just about everything. We were a great team,” Clem O’Sullivan said.

“It’s so hard now with the four kids, and no John. He was very energetic and powerful, and he was such an exuberant person.”

O’Sullivan, who was the eldest of eight children from Valentia Island, County Kerry, left behind 16-month-old Tessie, Michael Seamus, 3, and two step children, Lydia, 8 and Jacob, 15.

Clem O’Sullivan said it was her husband’s Irish charm that won her over.

Recalling with fondness when they first began dating, she said John pursued her for a while before she agreed to go out with him.

Laughing, she said, “He was a real charmer. After pursuing me for a while I gave in and we went on a date, and I’m glad I did.

“John was amazing. He was such a darling with the kids (Lydia and Jacob). He was a real family man,” she added.

Ironically, Clem O’Sullivan said when John proposed she wanted to be sure he was the one.

“I didn’t want to be a single mother for a second time,” said Clem O’Sullivan, sadly laughing at the irony.  

Clem O’Sullivan said John couldn’t wait to have more kids. They had two together in the past three years.

“He waited all his life to have children. He was really the best father to those kids, all four of them,” she said with sadness.  “Now I have to do it all alone.”

John, who emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1980s, was in the land developing business before his death. He was involved with two “green projects” that, when completed, promised to be very successful business ventures.

“John was a real business man. He knew everything about business and these green developments were his new projects,” said Clem O’Sullivan. 

O’Sullivan was shot dead by neighbor Kenneth John Zimmerman, 56, while on his tractor on Sunday, August 16 after what police said, was an ongoing feud between neighbors got out of control. Zimmerman shot the Kerry man once in the side and twice in the back. The two men had been in a long-standing dispute over an access gate to land.

Clem O’Sullivan said Zimmerman has “constantly harassed” them through the years.

“The truth is we have police reports going back three years of Ken (Zimmerman) harassing us,” explains Clem O’Sullivan.

On the night of the murder Amador County Sheriff's Office received a call from Zimmerman to say that his Irish neighbor had broken through his locked gate on a tractor, damaging his property.

Zimmerman told police dispatchers that O’Sullivan had struck him in the face and then attempted to run him over with his tractor. He then told police they had better get there quickly “before I shoot him.”

On arrival, police discovered Zimmerman blocking the road with a car. He told officers that O’Sullivan was near the gate he had driven through. Zimmerman also told them the gun he fired was in the house.

Officers discovered O’Sullivan’s body limped over on his tractor.

Zimmerman, charged with murder, is currently being held without bail.

Reliving the day that her husband was taken from her, Clem O’Sullivan said she was in the middle of cooking John a special dinner when she realized he was not in the house.

On the way home from a fishing excursion with her daughter, Clem O’Sullivan said she encountered Zimmerman at the gate in front of her home.

“He was harassing us as usual, and when I got back to the house I just downplayed it when John asked me what he wanted,” recalls Clem O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan left the house, told his younger daughter he was visiting their friend, Ann, and he never returned.