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35-year sentence in July 4 Metro murder

Jasper Spires pleaded guilty to repeatedly stabbing Kevin Sutherland to death on a Metro train on July 4, 2015. He's been sentenced to 35 years in prison.

WASHINGTON — The man who pleaded guilty to stabbing a Metro rider to death on July 4, 2015, was sentenced Friday to 35 years in prison.

Jasper Spires pleaded guilty in October 2017 to premeditated first-degree murder in the death of 24-year-old Kevin Sutherland. Judge Judith Bartnoff passed the sentence in D.C. Superior Court.

“Kevin Sutherland was on his way to a Fourth of July celebration when he was robbed and murdered in the middle of the day in the first killing ever to take place on a Metro train,” U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu said in a statement Friday. “This heinous crime shocked our entire community and deeply affected all of us at Metro,” added Metro Transit Police Chief Pavlik.

Sutherland, dressed in flip-flops, shorts, a T-shirt and a red string backpack, was taking the Metro downtown to celebrate Independence Day with friends. At about 12:45 p.m. that day, he entered the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Stations, on Rhode Island Avenue Northeast. Spires was standing by the fare machines; after Sutherland entered the station, Spires followed him.

They both got into the same car of a downtown-bound Red Line train.

As the Red Line train approached the NoMa-Gallaudet University station, Spires stole Sutherland’s cellphone and began stabbing him, police said.

Spires threatened and robbed several other people before fleeing. He was arrested two days later.

An autopsy showed Sutherland suffered 35 knife wounds during the attack.

Sutherland was a graduate of American University, and worked on Capitol Hill. The courtroom was packed with his friends and family. His parents, Doug and Terry Sutherland, presented emotional impact statements about the nightmare of losing their only son. “Nothing makes it more real than having to sit down and explain to a judge the impact that your son’s murder has on you,” Doug Sutherland said.

“When he was murdered, my heart was shattered,” Terry Sutherland said.

Doug Sutherland talked about how the loss of his only son, will rob him and his wife from having a daughter-in-law and grandchildren; It will prevent them from seeing what the Kevin would accomplish later in life.

Bartnoff said the 60 impact statements for Sutherland, including one from a US congressman, are the most she has seen during her career.

“I have never received a combination of letters like this,” she said.

The defense team said Spires was a bright man who had potential before he dropped out of college in North Carolina due to mental illness. He began hearing voices and decoding messages from the TV, his lawyers said. Spires’ attorneys planned to use an insanity defense, but Saint Elizabeths Hospital conducted a criminal responsibility evaluation.

“The Saint Elizabeths report, dated May 10, 2017, found that, although the defendant was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the murder, the disorder did not impair his ability to recognize the wrongfulness of his actions or conform his behavior to the requirements of the law,” according to the government’s sentencing memo.

Prosecutors said before the sentencing that it was the first killing on a Metro train in the system’s history. In the plea agreement, prosecutors and the defense agreed to a sentencing range of 30 to 35 years of prison followed by five years of supervised release.

“We continue to extend our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of Kevin Sutherland, and hope that today’s sentencing may give them some comfort,” Pavlik added in the statement.


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