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'He Always Wanted More': Vengeful Florida Son Masterminded 'Execution' Of His Mother
John Sutton called authorities after he was shot in the head in his home as he slept. When authorities arrived, they discovered his wife, Susan, had also been attacked.
For John and Susan Sutton, life in Coral Gables, Florida, an upscale community near Miami, life was filled with blue skies. He was a successful lawyer, she managed his office. They had two adopted children.
On August 22, 2004, they had plenty to celebrate. Susan had just turned 57, and John’s firm had won three lucrative cases. The couple’s son Christopher, 25, and his fiancée, Juliette Driscoll, dropped in for the gathering before going to a movie.
But celebration turned into horror hours later. John, who was sleeping in a separate room from his wife because he snored, called 911 to report that he had been shot in the head.
“I remember a lot of pain,” he told “Murdered By Morning,” airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
When help arrived John managed to tell police he couldn’t identify the shooter before being rushed to the hospital.
Susan was still in her bedroom, where the Coral Gables SWAT team discovered that Susan had been shot six times and killed. Investigators observed jewelry and other valuables in plain sight, which ruled out a burglary. The point of entry appeared to be a sliding glass door.
“It looked like the shooter came there to shoot Susan and her husband. She was executed,” said Dr. Emma Lew, a medical examiner in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
Bullet casings recovered at the scene were all from a .9mm gun. As police worked the scene, Teddy Montoto, John’s law firm partner who attended the gathering, was back at the house. He said that he had been on the phone with Susan and heard gunshots.
Investigators questioned why he was on the phone with her. Montoto agreed to give a statement at the station and explained that he and Susan worked closely together at the firm — but he also told them he was carrying a .9mm handgun.
“It definitely raised some flags,” said Chief Rosanna Cordero-Stutz, former homicide detective, Miami-Dade County, Florida.
When Chris Sutton arrived at his parents’ home he told police he and his girlfriend had been at the movies the previous night and handed over tickets as proof. Theater security cameras confirmed their whereabouts.
Driscoll told police that a woman had railed against John’s firm days before the shooting because of a settlement that didn’t go in her favor. She “had threatened to go to their law office and actually shoot up the place,” Miami Herald writer David Ovalle told producers.
The woman owned a boat, which raised suspicions about the shooter escaping by the waterway the night of the shooting. The individual was thoroughly investigated and cleared. Her alibi checked out. Surveillance cameras showed that her boat never left the marina where it was docked.
At the hospital John emerged from a medically induced coma, but he was blind. His wife’s murder was kept from him while he recovered and stayed in the hospital until mid-September.
Police reinterviewed Montoto who agreed to a polygraph test. It showed that his responses to questions concerning his relationship with Susan were deceptive. He finally owned up to the fact that he and Susan were having an affair. He insisted that was the only thing he was lying about.
Montoto’s gun was found not to be a match for casings found at the crime scene. Moreover, he was on the phone with Susan at the time of the shooting. Police were back at square one.
As they looked more closely at Chris they discovered had a troubled past and scrapes with the law. As a teenager he had vandalized a teacher’s home.
“We just had no control whatsoever over what he did and when he did it,” said John Sutton. “We had a psychiatric report that recommended behavioral modification.”
Despite their son’s protests John and Susan sent Chris to Paradise Cove, an extremely disciplined boarding school in Samoa. It was a last-ditch effort to help him. The couple believed that Chris was making progress.
“This is a program that actually had a lot of controversy about it,” said Ovalle, adding that there were reports of abuse at the school.
Chris Sutton came back on his 19th birthday, after 30 months at the school. Years later, Chris, who still relied on financial support from his parents, was seething over what had occurred to him, investigators said.
In March 2005 police caught a break when a woman reported that she suspected her ex-boyfriend, Garrett Kopp, could be involved in Susan’s murder. Kopp’s number was in Chris’ phone records, and the two had spoken the night of the crime.
Investigators learned that Kopp had a gun charge for a Glock .9mm pistol that had been impounded. Investigators tested it to see if there was a link to the Sutton crime.
“It was clear that that is a murder weapon that killed Susan and almost killed John,” said Cordero-Stutz,
When questioned by police Kopp confessed that Chris had recruited him to kill his parents as revenge for his time at Paradise Cove. Chris told Kopp he’d get a cut of the insurance payout.
Driscoll confirmed Chris’ resentment about Paradise Cove, according to “Murdered by Morning.”
An arrest warrant for Chris Sutton was issued on March 26, 2005. In July 2010, Christopher Sutton stood trial for murder. Kopp, who agreed to testify in return for a 30-year plea deal, was the prosecution’s key witness. John Sutton also testifed against his son.
On July 21, Christopher Sutton was found guilty of attempted murder and murder in the first degree. He was sentenced to three life terms without a chance of parole.
“I think this is a case of an individual’s greed, getting the better of them,” said Cordero-Stutz. “He truly, always just wanted more. It was never enough.”
To learn more about the case, watch “Murdered By Morning,” airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen
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