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The O'Sullivan family

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

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The O'Sullivan family

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. 

“I just knew something was up. It was when Lydia told me that Daddy was gone to Ann’s that I had a feeling in my stomach. I knew Ann wasn’t there. I rushed outside to look for John and that’s when I heard gun shots,” remembers Clem O’Sullivan.

According to Clem O’Sullivan, Zimmerman began screaming at her when she came looking for her husband.

“He was streaming. ‘You’re f***ing dead bitch,’ at me,” recalls Clem O’Sullivan.

 Since O’Sullivan’s death life has been anything but easy for the family. According to Clem O’Sullivan, a local newspaper has printed untrue facts about her husband, tarnishing his good name and causing her eight-year-old daughter much distress at school.

O’Sullivan had once been accused of abusing animals. Not true said his wife. O’Sullivan was never convicted.

“My daughter was held down at school and told ‘Your dad was a dumba** and he deserved to die,’” said Clem O’Sullivan.

“Now the kids won’t sleep in their own rooms. They are all scared. They all want to sleep in the same bed as me. They won’t walk from the bus stop and the little one keeps asking for her daddy,” adds Clem O’Sullivan with sadness.

O’Sullivan was in the middle of completing a green residential development and was just about ready to get a second one up and running before he died. The family had poured a lot of money into these projects, thus leaving them with large debts.

Clem O’Sullivan said the only solution she can come up with to save her home is to take on a business partner in the green resorts development projects, or to sell their 40-acre ranch and the holiday home.

“I’m hoping and praying that the development business will take off. In the midst of all of this I'm working night and day trying to market the two subdivisions. I’m hoping someone will come in and refinance, or come in on a joint venture with me on either of the subdivisions and with the ranch or the lighthouse home,” said Clem O’Sullivan.   

“One of the green resorts is fully entitled as a green residential development. All we have left to do is turn in the final engineering drawings into the county. It’s on 132 acres with 98 single family lots.”

The O’Sullivan ranch has a small winery. The house has a guest quarters detached. There are two barns and eight stalls. There is also an area mapped out for a riding arena.

Clem O’Sullivan said she is fortunate to have good in-laws with welcoming hearts.

“John’s family and some of the people on Valentia Island said I am welcome to move there. They are so great, and it might be something that we may have to consider,” she said.

O' Sullivan's remains were brought home to Valentia Island for burial following his death. Clem O’Sullivan accompanied his body, but she didn’t have enough money to bring the children.

“I hope someday soon to bring the children away from all of this here and go to Kerry to be with John’s family. I’d really love to go for Christmas, but that won’t be possible the way things are financially at the moment,” said Clem.

Log onto www.johnmichaelosullivan.ning.com for more information.

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