Vivian Callahan’s divorce saved her life.
If her ex-husband hadn’t filed the paperwork when he did, she would have joined her friends on a 58-foot sailboat as they traveled across the Indian Ocean.
And, she said, she would have been there in early 2011 when pirates boarded the vessel off the coast of Africa and killed the four Americans they found on board.
Callahan testified Monday as the trial of three Somali pirates – Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar – entered its final phase in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors are asking the jury to sentence the men to death. Defense attorneys are arguing for life in prison without parole.
“Life in a cage is not an insignificant punishment,” said Lawrence Woodward Jr., an attorney for Beyle.
The three Somali men were convicted earlier this month of 26 crimes relating to the Feb. 22, 2011, deaths of Scott and Jean Adam, a California couple who owned the Quest, and Phyllis Patricia Macay and Robert Riggle, both of Seattle,
According to court testimony, a group of 19 pirates boarded the Quest on Feb. 18, 2011, and took the four Americans hostage. After negotiations with the Navy failed, Salad, Beyle and Abrar opened fire – killing the hostages and two pirates in the process.
Callahan, who spent about four months with Jean and Scott Adam in 2010 sailing around the South Pacific, was one of several witnesses to testify Monday on behalf of the prosecution. In often emotional testimony that brought one prosecutor to tears, each testified about Jean and Scott Adam, and how they were affected by their deaths.
Drew Savage, Jean’s 39-year-old son, recalled how his mom loved to play piano and sing – even though she was tone deaf. She also was an avid biker.
“She liked to go further than me,” said Savage, explaining he couldn’t keep up with his mom.
A moment later, Savage’s younger brother testified how their mother’s death sent his life into a tailspin.
“Basically, the world stopped for me,” said Brad Savage, 34. “It halted it in its tracks.”
Unlike most other death penalty cases, members of the defendant’s families will not testify during the sentencing hearing. Instead, defense attorneys plan to call investigators to the stand later this week to testify about their travels to Somalia and what they were able to learn about the three men.
Defense attorneys portrayed the men as peasants who were raised in a war-torn region.
The sentencing phase is expected to stretch into next week.