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. Tampa man arrested in fatal motel shooting


    TAMPA — A 37-year-old Tampa man was arrested on a manslaughter charge Thursday for the death of Yasmine L. Tyson on Monday night.

     Christopher Lee Carithers, 37, of Tampa, was arrested on a manslaughter charge Thursday  for the shooting death of Yasmine L. Tyson in a hotel Monday night. [Tampa Police Department]
  2. St. Pete's Downtown Looper expands service with $900,000 grant



    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG ­— The Downtown Looper will expand its route and its hours starting in October 2018 thanks to a $900,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.

  3. Latest sewage crisis fallout: Higher utility bills in St. Pete

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — For months the cost of the city's sewage crisis has been measured in terms of environmental damage, legal ramifications and political repercussions.

    Now residents are about to get the bill.

    Signs at North Shore Park in St. Petersburg warn people in September 2016 to stay out of the water due to contamination from partially treated sewage during the height of the city's sewage crisis. Now the City Council is considering how much to raise utility rates to pay the $326 million bill to fix St. Petersburg's sewage system. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  4. Rays add a bat, too, acquiring Lucas Duda from Mets


    The Rays made another big move today, acquiring 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.

    Duda, 31, is a lefty slugger who will take over as the Rays primary DH against right-handers, with Corey Dickerson now playing most of the time in the outfield.

    To get Duda, the Rays gave up minor-league RHP Drew Smith, …

    The Rays acquired 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.
  5. Florida's legal losses up to $19 million and counting since 2011


    From Gary Fineout of the Associated Press:

    This is getting expensive.