Prosecutors announced Monday that they will seek the death penalty against a Burke County teen and ISIS supporter accused of robbing and killing his neighbor to get an assault rifle so he could commit mass murder.
Justin Nojan Sullivan, 19, was arrested last June and is accused of plotting to kill up to 1,000 people in support of ISIS, an Islamic terrorist organization. Court documents unsealed last month link him directly to the previously unsolved 2014 murder of John Bailey Clark, 74, who lived down the street from Sullivan and his parents on Carswell Road in Morganton.
Court documents said Sullivan planned to use the money he stole from Clark to buy the rifle. Clark was shot several times in the head. Deputies found him in a shallow grave on his property.
According to court documents, federal authorities believe Clark’s murder came after Sullivan had converted to Islam and began watching beheadings and other violent ISIS acts on the Internet. Around that same time, ISIS sent out a worldwide call for attacks against citizens and soldiers of any country involved in the U.S.-led coalition targeting the Islamic group.
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The investigation started after a 911 call in April 2015 from Sullivan’s parents who said their son was pouring gasoline over their religious items. “I don’t know if it’s ISIS or what, but he is destroying Buddhas and figurines and stuff,” his stepfather said, according to earlier documents. “We’re afraid to leave the house.”
The investigation included using an undercover officer to connect with Sullivan and learn about his intent.
According to court documents, Sullivan referred to himself as “The Mujahid,” or a guerrilla warrior in defense of Allah and Islam. Staff writer Michael Gordon contributed.