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Loved ones of victims aid Michael Sullivan as race heats up

The loved ones of victims in two well-known murder cases recorded a radio ad Tuesday denouncing Marian Ryan, the sitting Middlesex district attorney, and threw their support behind her challenger, Michael Sullivan.

A close friend of Jennifer Martel, who was murdered by Jared Remy in August 2013, and the mother of Lauren Dunne Astley, an 18-year-old from Wayland killed by her boyfriend three years ago, said they believe Sullivan will be more sensitive to the families and loved ones of murder victims.

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Their endorsements come as Ryan, who was appointed to the seat by Governor Deval Patrick, moves aggressively to cast Sullivan as an ethically challenged candidate with more knowledge of politics than the prosecutor’s office.

On Monday, she called on Sullivan, who is Middlesex clerk of courts, to release the details of his consulting work for a real estate developer that did work in Cambridge. Sullivan was paid $91,000 between 2007 and 2009, at the same time he was the clerk.

“I think the public has a right to know what he was doing for all that money,” Ryan said in a statement. “He says he can’t reveal what he did for all that money, because they have a confidentiality agreement. So what is he hiding?”

On Tuesday, Ryan released a television ad in which she mentions her own experience as a victim: In 1980, she and her boyfriend were randomly attacked by two men. Ryan survived, but her boyfriend was murdered in front of her.

“Marian Ryan for more than 34 years has been working with victims and has been a victim herself,” Ryan’s campaign spokesman Conor Yunits said. “It’s hurtful and disgraceful to say she doesn’t work well with victims. It’s really shameful that Michael Sullivan is involving families of victims in a political campaign.”

Kristina Hill, who witnessed Martel’s murder, and Dunne’s mother, Mary Dunne, said they were both disturbed by the response from Ryan’s office in the wake of Martel’s murder.

“Both of us want someone in that office who is going to be supportive and compassionate,” Dunne said in an interview following the taping of the ad, which will start running Wednesday.

Dunne, whose daughter’s case was prosecuted under former district attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr., pointed to the fact that Ryan said prosecutors did not seek to hold Remy after he smashed Martel’s head into a bathroom mirror primarily because Martel did not want to extend the restraining order against him. Hill said she was also frustrated to learn Ryan had withheld pages of an external review she commissioned to analyze how her office handled the case.

“I felt that the public has a right to know what happened,” Hill said in an interview.

In the 30-second ad they recorded Tuesday, Hill and Dunne relate the killings of their loved ones and urge voters to support Sullivan.

“Unlike the currently appointed DA, Michael Sullivan will never blame the victim or hide vital documents from the press and public,” they say.

Ryan has said she was within her legal rights to withhold the pages and was motivated by concern for her employees, whom she said were told to speak candidly with the outside lawyers investigating the case.

Only voters in Middlesex County will make the choice for the next district attorney in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary, but the intensity of the district attorney’s race has garnered interest from political watchers who expect a close race between Ryan and Sullivan, who have both had to answer tough questions about their past decision-making.

Sullivan has said the confidentiality agreement he signed with the real estate company, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, forbids him from describing the details of his work and the exact amount he earned from them. He provided a range of what he earned when he filed his finances with the state. The Globe compiled a more precise amount by analyzing tax records his campaign released.

On Tuesday, Sullivan called Ryan’s latest statement a move of desperation and arrogance.

“After Marian Ryan gets caught red-handed hiding parts of a document damaging to herself regarding the Jared Remy case, she now wants me to break the law by illegally releasing a document she is well aware is covered by a legally drawn confidentiality clause,” he said.

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @globemcramer.
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