Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Man pleads guilty to killing American University alum Kevin Sutherland

Sutherland died from stab wounds suffered on Metro train in 2015

Man pleads guilty to killing American University alum Kevin Sutherland

Kevin Sutherland, pictured far right, poses with the 2011-2012 SG Executive Board.

In a D.C. courtroom Thursday, Jasper Spires admitted to stabbing and killing American University alumnus Kevin Sutherland on a Metro train on July 4, 2015.

Spires, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder while armed in the killing of Sutherland, who was 24 years old. The plea agreement, brokered between D.C. prosecutors and Spires’s public defenders, consists of a prison sentence of between 30 to 35 years, according to the Washington Post.

If Spires had gone to trial and been convicted, he could have been sentenced to life without parole. He is set to be sentenced on Jan. 12, and will remain at St. Elizabeths, the District’s psychiatric facility, until then.

The hearing on Thursday was an emotional one, as Sutherland’s family and a group of about 40 college friends gathered in the courtroom. AU students, alumni and faculty were horrified by the news of Sutherland’s death in 2015, which took place on a Metro train at the NoMa-Gallaudet U station. Spires followed Sutherland onto the train, grabbed his cell phone and stabbed him more than 30 times with a knife. Before running off the train, Spires kicked Sutherland and tried to rob another passenger.

“He ended our son’s life and ended his own life, too, and we just don’t know why. What happened?” Sutherland’s father, Douglas, told the Post outside the courthouse.

Sutherland, a Connecticut native, was a two-time Student Government secretary and graduated in 2013 with a degree in Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics and Government from the School of Public Affairs. He was involved in several groups on campus, ranging from AU College Democrats to the Public Relations Student Society chapter. Prior to his death, he worked as a digital political strategist for New Blue Interactive and had interned for Representative Jim Himes (D-CT).

“Kevin’s time at American University was marked by academic achievement, deep commitment to service and a genuine love for the city he adopted as his second home,” then-University President Neil Kerwin said at Sutherland’s AU memorial service in 2015. “This university and city in turn embraced him as a person who would make great contributions in what we all thought would be a long and successful life and career.”

Two scholarship funds at AU were created in Sutherland’s memory: the Kevin Joseph Sutherland Memorial Fund, which gives scholarships to students involved in AU College Democrats and Student Government, and the Kevin Sutherland Internship Fund, which provides financial support to students taking unpaid internships on Capitol Hill. Sutherland, an avid photographer, was also honored with a photography display at the NoMa-Gallaudet U Metro stop in 2016.

At the memorial, Sutherland’s friends said he became part of their second family. Tya Scott, a 2014 graduate who works at AU and was one of Sutherland’s roommates, said Sutherland was forever “in our hearts, in our minds, in our dreams.”

“Kevin has taught me that every day we have a chance to create a life with purpose and with meaning,” Scott said. “His work was not finished, and neither is ours.”

hsamsel@theeagleonline.com


Never miss a story.

Get our weekly newsletter in your inbox.