Florida Son Who Killed Mother, Blinded Father Convicted

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Jurors in Miami-Dade County have convicted a 31-year-old man of first-degree murder and attempted murder in the orchestrated attack that killed his mother and blinded his father.

According to prosecutors, Christopher Sutton, who was adopted by John R. and Susan Sutton as a newborn, was upset over having been sent to a strict reform school in Samoa in the 1990s. He also wanted to inherit the couple’s fortune. To that end, he convinced a friend to break into the family home and shoot the pair in August 2004.

The friend, Garrett Kopp, was the state’s key witness after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and accepting a 30-year prison sentence in exchange for his testimony.. Defense attorneys tried to portray Kopp as a drug addict who broke into the Sutton home in order to look for money or drugs, but the jury didn’t accept that explanation. Kopp had taken the stand to testify that Chrisopher Sutton had given him a gun, showed him how best to enter the Coral Gables house, and then given him the go-ahead on August 22.

In the mid-1990s, the Suttons sent Christopher to a reform school in Samoa where, the son testified, he and other boys were hogtied, imprisoned in cages, forced to perform hard labor and deprived of food. He also said, however, that he later adjusted to life at the Samoan Paradise Cove Program, after the program eased up a bit, and that he came to appreciate the experience. Sutton was enrolled in the reform program for 29 months, after which he came to believe that having undergone the experience entitled him to his father’s money, testified his then-fiance, Juliette Driscoll.

The shootings killed Susan Sutton, while John Sutton was blinded by a bullet that struck him in the head.

The trial, before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stanford Blake, lasted three weeks, after which jurors deliberated for 10 hours spread over the course of two days. Sutton was found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted first degree murder, attempted first degree felony murder, and burglary with assault.

Blake, who was among many in the courtroom to become teary-eyed as the verdict was read, then sentenced Sutton to three life terms in prison.

The elder Sutton, speaking in the courthouse hallway after the trial, said that he and his wife had tried to do right by their adopted son, but that nevertheless the shooting was a “scheme hatched over a long time.”

“Those other people that went to Samoa, they didn’t kill people,” he added.

 

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