Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco dad whose son came to his defense in fatal mud bog fight, lost police job over DUI, records show

Hours after working crowd control at a Joe Biden rally in 2008, New Port Richey police Officer Christopher Sutherlin crashed his pickup into another vehicle on U.S. 19. Investigators said he left the scene — and that he was drunk. Two people were treated for minor injuries.

Sutherlin, 30, had been an officer for 10 months. He later pleaded no contest to driving under the influence. He avoided jail time, but his short stay with the police force ended.

Years later, this past Saturday, alcohol would again play a part in Sutherlin's life as authorities say he threw a beer can at a truck and fought with another man until his son, Christopher Sutherlin Jr., 15, went to his defense.

The end result: one man dead and the younger Sutherlin charged with manslaughter.

They were at the Redneck Games at the Horse Hole Creek mud bogs in Inglis when the elder Sutherlin fought with 24-year-old Roderic Sparks of Dunnellon. According to witnesses, Sparks revved his truck's engine repeatedly and Sutherlin signaled for him to stop. When he didn't, Sutherlin threw a beer can at the truck. It was about 7:30 p.m.

Sparks got out of his truck to fight. When Sutherlin appeared to be losing, his son ran to them and stabbed Sparks, Levy County sheriff's deputies said.

Sparks died at a Crystal River hospital. Authorities said the knife pierced his heart.

His cousin, Alisha Lecouris, 20, said she witnessed the fight.

"I was with him when the whole thing happened. He was right there in my arms," she said Tuesday. "He kept trying to open his eyes and he couldn't. It all happened really too fast out in the middle of the mud hole."

Lecouris said Sparks' truck had broken down and was stuck, which is why he revved the engine. She watched as Sutherlin threw the beer can, as Sparks stepped out of the truck and as Sutherlin's son joined the fight.

"I thought he was punching him, but he was stabbing him,'' she said. "Roderic turned around to walk away and that was it."

The younger Sutherlin is a freshman at Gulf High School. He played baseball and was a member of the Navy JROTC. His father told a Times reporter on Tuesday that he had no comment.

Sparks attended a technical institute to learn about welding. He enjoyed being outside and spending time with his family, said his aunt, Vickie Smith.

"He was a wonderful kid," she said. "There was never a time he didn't say he loved you."

Lecouris said there isn't a word to describe the closeness she and her cousin shared. If she ever called him in need, he was there next to her before she hung up. They grew up together. She saw him every day.

"Cousins by blood, brother by heart," Lecouris said.

Jamie Klein can be reached at

Pasco dad whose son came to his defense in fatal mud bog fight, lost police job over DUI, records show 05/31/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 11:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans


    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  2. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?


    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  3. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo


    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  4. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies


    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  5. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win


    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.