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Donalyn Sullivan
Donalyn in 1991
Donalyn Sullivan ("Sugar Dawn")
Portrayed by Danièle Watts
Episode Read Between the Lines
Status Deceased (1991)

Donalyn Sullivan is the victim in "Read Between the Lines". She was a 14-year-old up-and-coming rapper who was reported missing in 1991.

Donalyn's mother was a drug addict who died from AIDS in 1986 while her father wasn't in the picture. She and her younger sister, Meesha Sullivan, became foster kids and Donalyn took on the task of raising her. They were bounced between foster homes for four years. At one point when they were separated, Donalyn was molested in the home. In 1991, she and Meesha ended up in the care of Kenneth and Alice Watson.

Donalyn had a secret talent for rap music. She met Zeb "Zen" Edwards when she battled him in a rap freestyle. He saw her talent, became her producer and gave her the stage name "Sugar Dawn". Donalyn also met another amateur rapper Big Soph, who was initially her rival, and small-time producer Andrew "Huxtable" Garrett. Her first single "Goin' Off" (written by Zen) was a minor hit but Huxtable told her to write something "real".

Donalyn began composing a song called "Read Between the Lines" where she exposed that her foster father Kenneth was a pedophile, having picked up on the signs based on her past assault. Donalyn alluded to him as "The Phantom" (because he took her to watch The Phantom of the Opera). She was going to perform it at the birthday party of local club owner Virgil "Sticky" Jones. When Alice found her rap tape and confronted her, Donalyn ran away to the club. Alice tracked her down and tried to convince Donalyn not to leave, explaining she really cared about her and Meesha. However, Donalyn was intent on protecting her sister and threatened to call a social worker so her foster parents would never see them again. She walked away but Alice then hit her on the head with a lead pipe, killing her instantly.

Unbeknownst to Donalyn, Alice actually believed her about Kenneth; the Watsons got divorced a year later and Alice raised Meesha by herself. Meesha grew up believing that her sister abandoned her. Zeb's career never took off and he became a bus driver. He still regrets not understanding Donalyn's pain.

Sticky is in jail in 2009. He wanted to be briefly released to attend his daughter's funeral so he told the cold case team that he had found and dumped Donalyn's body. He was afraid that his gang connections would kill him if he talked to police.

After the case was solved, Big Soph played "Read Between the Lines" on her radio show, which Huxtable and Zeb listened to. Meesha watched as the woman who raised her was arrested for killing her sister. She then went home and reminisced about dancing with Donalyn in her living room like they used to.

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