Pharmacy student from St. George slashed across face in Pennsylvania attack

Whitnie Sullivan, 21, gives a thumbs-up from her hospital bed in Erie, Pa., July 2018 | Photo courtesy of Sullivan family via Prayers for Whitnie Facebook page, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A former St. George resident is recovering after being slashed in the face and throat by a man in a parking lot Tuesday evening in Pennsylvania, in what police say was an unprovoked attack.

Whitnie Sullivan, 21, has since undergone surgery to repair damage done to the left side of her face and her throat, Sullivan’s sister Ashley Wiggins and other family members reported in posts made on the Prayers for Whit public Facebook group page.

Whitnie Sullivan at Zion National Park in 2013 | Photo courtesy of Sullivan family, St. George News

Sullivan, a 2014 graduate of Desert Hills High School, became a licensed pharmacy technician through Dixie Applied Technology College the following year. She then took pharmacy prerequisite classes at Dixie State University and Utah Valley University before moving to Erie, Pennsylvania, last year to begin graduate studies at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine to become a licensed pharmacist.

Sullivan was reportedly heading to work at a Walgreens pharmacy in Erie at approximately 7 p.m. Tuesday when the incident occurred.

Although previous reports have characterized the incident as a botched robbery attempt, Wiggins said her sister later said the man made no demand for money, nor were there any words spoken between Sullivan and her assailant.

Whitnie Sullivan and a nurse both smile from Whitnie’s hospital bed in Erie, Pa., July 2018 | Photo courtesy of Sullivan family via Prayers for Whit Facebook page, St. George News

“From what I’ve understood, she was walking into work, about to start her shift,” Wiggins told St. George News. “She looked up and smiled at the guy. He didn’t say anything to her and then she looked back down to see where she was going and he just lunged at her. She didn’t say anything to him. He didn’t say anything to her. He just lunged at her.”

The man reportedly slashed at Sullivan’s face and throat with a box-cutter utility knife, causing severe lacerations. She was transported to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hamot, where she underwent surgery, published reports said.

“They had a plastic surgeon who worked on her to make the damage be as minimal as possible,” Wiggins said, adding the cuts narrowly missed severing Sullivan’s carotid artery and jugular vein.

“She was literally two millimeters away from having died,” Wiggins said. “The surgeon says she is very, very lucky.”

According to GoErie.com, Steveland Robinson, 30, the man accused of attacking Sullivan, has a lengthy history of mental illness. Police arrested him at gunpoint at the scene shortly after the attack. Robinson has reportedly undergone numerous hospitalizations for mental health issues, according to a psychological evaluation conducted in 2016.

Whitnie Sullivan’s parents, Rachelle and Shane Sullivan, flew to Pennsylvania to be at their daughter’s side while she recovers at the hospital. The family owns and operates the Your Family Still Matters store on Bluff Street. Whitnie is the fourth of the couple’s five children.

If all goes well, the family plans to return to Utah as early as next week.

Steveland E. Robinson mug shot, via GoErie.Com

An account has been set up to help Sullivan pay for any medical bills not covered by insurance, along with additional costs associated with her being unable to work or attend school for awhile. Those wishing to contribute may call or stop in to any America First Credit Union branch and make a donation to the account established in the name of Whitnie Sullivan.

Walgreens and its employees have been extremely helpful and supportive, Wiggins said, as have been officials and staff at the college, where Sullivan was just finishing the first of her three years in the pharmacy program.

“They are creating an online program for her so that she doesn’t have to come back until she’s ready,” Wiggins said of school officials. “They’ve been phenomenal. They’ve gone above and beyond trying to make it as easy as possible for her while she is recovering and dealing with not only the physical but the emotional.”

“She was just so ecstatic, so happy that she wasn’t going to be put behind a year because of it, and that they were going to work with her and try to keep her up as much as possible.”

Wiggins said Sullivan and her family are also grateful for the outpouring of messages of love and support they’ve received in the wake of the incident.

The family is also indebted to a couple of anonymous bystanders at the scene who intervened at a critical moment, she said.

Stitches on left side of Whitnie Sullivan’s face closed the wound suffered in a box-cutter attack in Erie, Pa., July 3, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Sullivan family via Prayers for Whit Facebook page, St. George News

There was a man who stepped in and basically scared off the guy who was attacking Whitnie,” Wiggins said. “He’s probably the reason she’s alive.”

Another bystander who happened to be a retired EMT, jumped in to help slow the bleeding until the ambulance arrived.

“Whitnie is tough!” Sullivan’s mother Rachelle Sullivan wrote in an email sent from Pennsylvania Friday afternoon. “You don’t do what she has done without a lot of hard work, determination, and resilience. She will recover and she will continue her journey with both thumbs up and a ready smile.”

Wiggins said despite the horrific attack, her sister still sees the world as a good place.

“I think she’s going to recover and she is going to do fine,” Wiggins said. “She’s been really emotional about it, but she’s very strong and she’s smiled so much. Even though she’s hurting, she smiled. She’s just happy to be alive.”

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Ed. note: St. George News has not verified information provided in connection with fundraising accounts mentioned in this article and does not assure that monies deposited to the accounts will be applied as described. Those considering contributions are advised to consult with their own professionals for tax advice and investment risks.

Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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30 Comments

  • NickDanger July 6, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    What a shame. Glad to see her smiling. Just goes to show – never leave St. George.

  • Real Life July 6, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Just another 13 percenter. This should be labeled what it really is, a hate crime. Would it not be, if it was the other way around?

    • bikeandfish July 6, 2018 at 9:54 pm

      What evidence is there of a hate crime?

      • Real Life July 6, 2018 at 11:11 pm

        What evidence do you have that this was not a hate crime? You want to play the “mentally ill” game? It’s a shame the cops didn’t put him down.

        • ladybugavenger July 7, 2018 at 6:01 am

          In b&f fashion, it should be coming back with: I didnt make the claim, therefore, I dont have to provide any evidence. You made the claim, therefore you need to provide facts ….typical b&f style 😂

        • bikeandfish July 7, 2018 at 9:24 am

          Yep, LBA, you are actually learning to think critically, good job. Burden of evidence always resides on the person making the claim.

          Reallife, you lack any proof therefore your claim is invalid. Pretty simple.

          • ladybugavenger July 8, 2018 at 8:36 am

            In a court of law b&f.

          • ladybugavenger July 8, 2018 at 8:42 am

            Even in a court of law evidence and facts can be falsified. (Seen it happen)

          • bikeandfish July 8, 2018 at 10:01 am

            Not sure what your bigger point is here, LBA. Burden of proof isca standard outside the court in rational conversations and just about everything in life.

            Yep, proof can be falsified. But that is a red herring unless you have evidence that this criminal’s legal team and psych team falsified everything since he was 16. We are talking years and years of similar problems.

          • ladybugavenger July 8, 2018 at 11:53 am

            My point has always been b&f that “facts” and “evidence” are not always facts or evidence. That facts and evidence on a broad scale can be falsified. And your “facts” that you rely on may be nothing more than a lie.

          • bikeandfish July 8, 2018 at 12:31 pm

            Then its your job to prove them false.

            The entire gestalt of your approach here is irrational and untenable for dialogue. Skepticism is a tool that requires curiosity and research not just a means to cast doubt on anything and everything.

            The truth is we have years od evidence regarding his violence as it relates to schizophrenia. We have no evidence of the experts falsifying documents, tests or statements. We have no proof of relationship to BLM or hate crimes.

            What we do have is a bunch of armchair quarterbacks making uniformed opinions that are inconsistent with the experts, ie police and psych team.

            The rational and realistic conclusion is obviously in support of the experts until evidence to the contrary is provided.

          • ladybugavenger July 8, 2018 at 1:18 pm

            It’s not my job

          • ladybugavenger July 8, 2018 at 1:36 pm

            We can agree that this guy should not have been out on the streets with the history he has.

            I was talking about a broader scope than this story.

  • comments July 7, 2018 at 12:07 am

    yep, I’m not buying this “mentally ill” BS. This is quite plainly a hate crime.

    • bikeandfish July 7, 2018 at 9:33 am

      “He has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and has experienced hallucinations, paranoid thinking and “a host of temporary symptoms of psychosis,” the evaluation states. His medication compliance was reported as 50 percent, “which leaves him vulnerable to his psychotic symptoms and diversions from reality,” according to the evaluation.

      “His IQ previously tested at 61, which puts his intellectual functioning in the bottom 2 percent of the population, according to the Intellectual Disability Rights Service.”

      He’s been found incompetent to stand trial multiple times since his youth. He thinks he sees aliens

      Sadly, this is a case in which the state failed as he should be permanently housed at the mental hospital he was previously sent to. He shouldn’t be allowed to take medication voluntarily which means involuntary commitment. He’s clearly a danger to society.

      • ladybugavenger July 7, 2018 at 12:38 pm

        I read this was diagnosed after the incident. I suppose every after incident diagnosis would support a mental defect/disorder/illness diagnosis.

        • ladybugavenger July 7, 2018 at 12:39 pm

          Pretty sure I got the stories mixed up. And what I’m talking about is the bomb dude.

  • mmsandie July 7, 2018 at 8:51 am

    Prayers with her, she is pretty.. Pennsylvania has great hospitals..but no insurance gets me mad… family hasa business, college students get insurance ata low rate.. being in medical field. You have to have Insurance, parents could have kept heronpolicy til she was 25..no excuses

  • Carpe Diem July 7, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    It was premeditated, he was carrying the boxcutter. He was reported panhandling for some time, and her negative response likely triggered him. Lots can be said why he chose her, I doubt she called him names. He had the knife at the ready. IQ pegged at 61 and had violent episode involving a cop in 2015, out on parole in Feb. Justice system to blame, putting this guy back out on the streets. BTW IMHO the entire Black Lives wave as encouraged by Obama and Maxine Waters, has driven MANY over the edge… just witness the nasty attack by Kino Jimenez on the 4th of July.

  • comments July 7, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    Most of these schizos are actually quite nonviolent and usually end up being the victims of crimes rather than the perps. That’s why I’m not buying into the excuse here. He might have latched onto the #BLM thing and it threw him into a rage. What those #BLM clowns have in common with schizos is they are actually delusional as well.

    • bikeandfish July 7, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      You are correct that those with schizophrenia are more likely to be victimized than the victimizer. But he’s diagnosed with schizophrenia already and has a well-documented history of violence. Schizophrenia is one of the few mental disorders that is associated with an increased risk of violent behavior. This is especially true with such inconsistent use of anti-physcotics. Something like 20% of those citizens imprisoned for murder are also diagnosed with schizophrenia.

      You are ignoring his well-defined history of schizophrenia and violence and expert analysis in favor of an unsupported claim of hate crimes related to the BLM? That is ridiculous.

      • comments July 7, 2018 at 6:31 pm

        bike, I don’t know why your defending this guy. lol

        • bikeandfish July 7, 2018 at 7:23 pm

          Speaking to the facts isn’t defending him. He deserves to be involuntarily committed for life, but in a psychiatric hospital not a prison. The state messed up by releasing him in the first place.

          How is that defending him? I just believe in following the evidence, not unfounded assumptions.

          • Real Life July 7, 2018 at 9:37 pm

            Sure sounds like you are defending him. Look, I like you B and F, but you put a bullseye on your back sometimes, this being one of those times

          • comments July 7, 2018 at 10:58 pm

            Well B&F, sometimes life just isn’t fair is it. One night ur walkin’ to ur car after work and some BLM lunatic runs up and starts slashing your face with a box cutter shouting “BLACK LIVES MATTER! BLACK LIVES MATTER!!!”. Ok, I added a bit in there, but the only thing you and I can say is “sucks to be her” and “glad it wasn’t us”. Maybe her gofundme page will bring in a nice pile of cash. Lord knows she deserves it after going thru that. cheers 😉

          • bikeandfish July 8, 2018 at 9:57 am

            Reallife,

            How is saying he deserves to spend life in a psychiatric hospital defending him? How is say he’s a danger to society defending him?

            Speaking to fact instead of assumptions is not defending him. There is no evidence of a hate crime. There are years of evidence regarding his violent schizophrenic episodes.

            I could care less if folks want to put a target on my back.

          • Real Life July 8, 2018 at 10:28 am

            I will say it again. Yet another 13%er, and BLM? That is nothing but a terrorist organization.

          • bikeandfish July 8, 2018 at 12:24 pm

            And where is your proof of such an odd but aggressive claim?

            No clue what a 13%er is but a quick search about it doesn’t seem relevant, ie bike club reference.

          • comments July 8, 2018 at 2:30 pm

            I can tell bike is a BLM supporter. Go to the congo and get a blm movement started there. they need it worse than the US.

          • Real Life July 9, 2018 at 5:14 pm

            Try looking up 13 % again, and not on msnbc or some other whack job antifa web site. Pull your head out of your butt, and open your eyes

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