Thursday, February 7, 2019

Death in the City Beautiful [4]

Susan Sutton and the bad son: August 2004

Just a couple of years after the Maggie Locascio murder, in August 2004, another murder case featured a father and son facing each other in a courtroom setting. The cases were also similar in their focus on security cameras. In each case the security camera provided a rock-solid alibi but, ironically the cameras also provided evidence of guilt.

John Sutton, a well-known Gables lawyer, and his wife Susan had hosted a birthday party in their home on Orduna Drive, off Granada Blvd. in the area once known as The Devil’s Den – where Dora Sugg had been brutally murdered exactly one hundred years earlier.

Guests at the party included their son Christopher, his girlfriend Juliette and John’s Law Partner, Teddy Montoto. Soon after the guests left, and John and Susan retired to their separate bedrooms, somebody entered the house and shot both of them where they lay. Susan died immediately but her husband, seriously wounded and now blind, eventually survived.

Moments after police reached the house, Teddy Montoto also arrived. He told police he had been on the phone with Susan when he heard shots. He also told police that he was an expert marksman and had spent the day at target practice with his gun. The police tested his gun and gave Montoto a polygraph test. His gun passed the test, but he did not. After further questioning, Montoto confessed that he and Susan had been having a sexual affair. Another possible suspect was the couple’s 25-year-old son, Christopher. Even ten years later, Christopher still resented his parents for sending him to a brutal reform school as a teenager. Christopher had a long history of violent behavior, death threats and even a journal entry describing how to get hold of his parent’s wealth. At his mother’s funeral, Christopher seemed to know details of the crime known only to the police. But at the time of the murder, Christopher and his girlfriend were both attending a late-night movie as proved by the theatre’s security cameras.

However, the security cameras also showed Christopher leaving the cinema around midnight and immediately calling someone on his cell-phone. Phone records showed that the person he called, and whom he had called 331 times over the previous few days, was Garrett Kopp. Police then discovered that Kopp had been arrested less than 24 hours after the murder for threatening somebody with a gun. Tests soon proved it was the same Glock 9 mm semi-automatic pistol that had killed Susan Sutton. After six hours of intense interrogation, Kopp confessed to the murders and said he had been hired by Christopher, who wanted his parents dead.

During the lengthy and emotional trial it was shown that Christopher and Kopp were long-time dope-dealing buddies. It was also shown that Christopher had purchased the gun and had drawn Kopp a plan of the house, marking his parent’s bedrooms. His girlfriend Juliette described how Christopher had spent five years talking about killing his parents and constantly demanding money from them. After a day and a half of deliberations, the jury found Christopher guilty of first-degree murder. Before sentencing, an emotional John Sutton addressed the court but did not request leniency for his son.

"Regardless of the result, this is a bad case," he said. "I lost Susan. I lost Christopher long before that. I lost my eyesight ..." Asked if he still loved Christopher, the father told the court, "I would have to say that I do not. And it's hard...”
Christopher is serving life without the possibility of parole and Kopp will not be eligible for release till 2035. It would appear that despite all the manicured lawns and elegant mansions, the dark shadows of The Devil’s Den still linger to this day.

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