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. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa


    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.