Man sentenced to 35 years for killing American University alumnus Kevin Sutherland

Jasper Spires pled guilty to stabbing Sutherland in October

Man sentenced to 35 years for killing American University alumnus Kevin Sutherland

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

More than two years after American University alumnus Kevin Sutherland was stabbed and killed on a Metro train, his assailant has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Jasper Spires, 21, was sentenced during a two-hour court hearing Friday. He pleaded guilty to the crime in October as part of a plea agreement between D.C. prosecutors and Spires’ public defenders that guaranteed a sentence between 30 and 35 years.

During the two-hour Friday hearing, Spires addressed the Sutherland family in a statement he read aloud.

“I want to apologize for causing unimaginable pain,” Spires said. “The pain I caused will be with them and me forever. I am sorry for all the pain I caused and everyone I hurt.”

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 on July 4. 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.

“A subway system that transports millions of people suddenly became more dangerous and tainted by what happened to Mr. Sutherland,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Macey said at the hearing.

Sutherland, a Connecticut native who was 24-years-old at the time of his death, was a two-time student government secretary and graduated in 2013 with a degree in Communication, Legal Institutions, Economics and Government from the School of Public Affairs. He was involved in several groups on campus, ranging from College Democrats to Public Relations Student Society of America. Prior to his death, he worked as a digital political strategist for New Blue Interactive.

Prosecutors considered if robbery, drug use or mental illness were motives for the attack, but they never found a clear answer, according to The Washington Post. Spires underwent several psychiatric evaluations by doctors at St. Elizabeths, the District’s psychiatric facility.

In May, following their most recent evaluation, the doctors determined that although Spires suffered from a mental illness, the illness was not so severe that it would have led to the violent attack, according to the Post.

In the years since Sutherland’s death, two scholarship funds have been created at AU in his memory: the Kevin Joseph Sutherland Memorial Fund, which gives scholarships to students involved in College Democrats and student government, and the Kevin Sutherland Internship Fund, which provides financial support to students taking unpaid internships on Capitol Hill.

At Sutherland’s AU memorial service in 2015, his 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 at his memorial service. “His work was not finished, and neither is ours.”

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