Lesbian teen's accused killer waives court appearance
December 12 2003 1:00 AM ET
Family and friends of Sakia Gunn, a lesbian teen who was stabbed to death at a Newark, N.J., bus stop earlier this year, were disappointed when her accused killer opted not to appear at his arraignment
on Wednesday. Richard McCullough, 29, of Newark, waived his right to appear in superior court after being charged with murder, bias intimidation, aggravated assault and weapons offenses in an eight-count indictment handed up last month. His public defender, John McMahon, entered a plea of innocent on his behalf. Prosecutors say McCullough fatally stabbed 15-year-old Gunn in the heart in the early morning hours of May 11 after she rebuffed his advances on her friends. Witnesses said McCullough made sexual overtures toward the girls before Gunn told him that she and the other girls were gay.
Gunn's mother, Latona, cried after learning that McCullough would not appear Wednesday, though she declined to comment. Sakia's aunt, Loren Gunn, did speak. "He can kill little girls, but he can't come and face people?" she said. McMahon, McCullough's public defender, declined to comment. An assistant
Essex County prosecutor handling the case, Tom McTigue, said McCullough had expressed concern about his own safety. "He had voiced some fear that members of the community were extremely upset
by the allegations," McTigue said after the arraignment, adding that is office had no independent knowledge of any such threat. "He perceived that they might pose a threat to him." McCullough remained held at the county jail in lieu of $350,000 bail. He faces a minimum of 30 years in prison on the murder charge. The aggravated assault charges related to two other victims, whom McCullough choked and attempted to stab, McTigue said.