Washington Metropolitan Area

Prosecutors seek 35-year sentence for July 4 Metro murder

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Kevin Sutherland’s father, Doug Sutherland, said the judge has received more than 50 victim impacts ahead of Jasper Spires’ sentencing Friday. Spires pleaded guilty to premeditated first-degree murder in the July 4, 2015 slaying of Kevin Sutherland aboard a Red Line Metro train. (Courtesy Sutherland family)

WASHINGTON — Prosecutors in the District will ask a judge Friday for a 35-year prison sentence for the man who pleaded guilty to stabbing a Metro rider to death on July 4, 2015.

Jasper Spires pleaded guilty in October 2017 to premeditated first-degree murder, in the death of 24-year-old Kevin Sutherland.

Sutherland, dressed in flip-flops, shorts, a T-shirt and a red string backpack, was riding downtown to celebrate Independence Day with friends.

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 two other people before fleeing. He was arrested two days later.

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

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 Sutherland wasn’t the only victim.

“This was a shocking crime. The fact that it occurred on a Metro train, in the middle of the day, deeply impacted our community,.” prosecutors wrote. “This murder was the first killing on a Metro train car in the system’s history. It shook the confidence of citizens in the safety of the system. It made people feel vulnerable in a place they used to feel safe.”

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. Spires will be sentenced Friday morning in D.C. Superior Court.

“The gravity of this offense and the loss it has caused demands a sentence of 35 years of incarceration,” prosecutors said.

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