Murder charges: West St. Paul woman strangled aunt

A West St. Paul, Minnesota woman has been charged with murder for allegedly strangling her aunt, then staying in the apartment with the body all day while contemplating her next move. Divina Sulentich, 40, has been charged with one count of second-degree murder for the strangulation death of Mary Sulentich, 60, which occurred on July 8 or 9, according to the medical examiner.

According to the criminal complaint, Divina Sulentich had been living with her aunt since April to assist her following knee surgery. West St. Paul police had previously been dispatched to the apartment on July 8 at approximately 10:30 p.m. after the Mary reported she was having an argument with her niece.

On July 12, a witness entered Mary Sulentich’s apartment to conduct a welfare check, found her dead and called 911. Responding officers found Mary lying on her back on a bed, but the cause of death was not readily apparent.

Investigators located Divina Sulentich and conducted an interview. She said that after police officers left the apartment on the evening of July 8, she went to the community room in the apartment building, but later returned to the unit. When she returned to the apartment, she said she saw her aunt holding a cell phone. Mary Sulentich allegedly threatened to tell others about Divina’s illegal purchases of Vicodin and from whom she was purchasing it.

Divina said she took Mary’s phone and broke it in half. She said she grabbed her aunt by the neck and shoulders and shook her. During the struggle, they eventually ended up on the bed. Divina said she was on top of Mary and squeezed her neck until she went limp.

Divina told police she stayed in the apartment all day on July 9, contemplating what she should do, and then left in Mary’s car on July 10 without reporting her death.

The medical examiner determined that the cause of Mary Sulentich’s death was fractured thyroid cartilages on each side of her neck, consistent with strangulation.