CENTENNIAL — As investigators examined the 21-year-old's body, Almeda Sullivan repeatedly and nervously asked the sheriff's deputy if she could leave.
Sullivan, a former teacher's aide in Cherry Creek School District, has been charged with one count of first-degree murder with extreme indifference in the accidental overdose death of Carter Higdon. She has also been linked to — but not charged with — three additional overdose deaths.
The 51-year-old appeared in Arapahoe District Court on Tuesday for the sixth installment of her preliminary hearing, which began in January.
During the hearing, authorities described Sullivan as anxious the day Higdon's body was found in the basement of her Centennial home. But when asked about the drugs Higdon used, she became "nonchalant" and calmly repeated that she did not give him any pills, said John Turnidge, an investigator with the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office.
Prosecutors do not have to prove that Sullivan intended to kill Higdon. Instead, they argue that because of the three deaths before Higdon, Sullivan knew there was a reasonable and reckless danger when she allegedly provided him with the pain pills.
In January 2008, Sierra Renee Cochran, 19, died at Sullivan's home after she accidently overdosed.
In the months that followed, Sullivan allegedly sold prescription drugs to 28-year-old Lindsey Jo Saidy and Martynas "Tez" Simanskas, 20, the nights before they overdosed. More than three years later, on Oct. 1, 2011, Higdon accidently overdosed.
Opana, a narcotic painkiller similar to oxycodone, was found in the system of each victim.
On Tuesday, Sullivan sat next to her attorneys, pursing her lips as she struggled to write notes while in her restraints.
Her attorneys argue that the four victims started using drugs before they met Sullivan. But prosecutors say Sullivan fed those addictions, and phone records presented in court suggest she had contact with the victims in the hours or days leading up to each person's death.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Deputy Paula Benson was the first officer to arrive at Sullivan's home after Higdon died. She said Sullivan was nervous and was repeatedly asking to leave.
Sullivan's attorneys pushed Benson to recall details.
Other than her interactions with Sullivan, Benson didn't recall many particulars. But she did remember Higdon's mother, whom Sullivan called to the house before calling 911.
"The only thing I can remember is that she was crying," Benson said.