Nicholas Sutton Executed For Prison Murder

Nicholas Sutton was executed by the State of Tennessee for a murder that took place in prison

According to court documents Nicholas Sutton was serving a life sentence for three murders when he would stab another prisoner to death

Nicholas Sutton would be convicted and sentenced to death

Nicholas Sutton would be executed by way of the electric chair on February 20 2020

Nicholas Sutton Photos

Nicholas Sutton tennessee

Nicholas Sutton FAQ

When Was Nicholas Sutton Executed

Nicholas Sutton was executed on February 20 2020

How Was Nicholas Sutton Executed

Nicholas Sutton was executed by way of the electric chair

Nicholas Sutton Case

Tennessee executed death row inmate Nicholas Todd Sutton in the electric chair Thursday night, marking the fifth time the state has used the method since 2018.

Sutton, 58, was pronounced dead at 7:26 p.m. CST, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.

He was 18 years old when he killed his grandmother Dorothy Sutton, his high school friend John Large and another man, Charles Almon. Sutton didn’t receive a death sentence until he fatally stabbed fellow inmate Carl Estep six years later, in 1985.

When the curtain to the death chamber opened Thursday, Sutton looked forward with a solemn expression and made eye contact with media witnesses on the other side of the glass

Asked by the prison warden if he had any last words, Sutton spoke at length about his Christian faith. He thanked his wife, his family and “many friends for their love and support as they tried so very hard to save my life.”

He spoke about the “power of Jesus Christ to take impossible situations and correct them.”

A prison chaplain and Sutton’s spiritual adviser had served him communion — Welch’s grape juice and a wafer — at 3:30 p.m., just before he ate his last meal.

Seated in the electric chair, Sutton closed his eyes as prison officials doused sponges attached to his body with saline solution. Salt water ran down his face before a pair of officers draped a shroud over his head, which had been shaved hours earlier.

Then his body lifted up as jolts of electrocution twice coursed through his body

Sutton was the 139th person put to death in Tennessee since 1916, and the seventh inmate executed since the state resumed capital punishment in August 2018.

Sutton’s execution seemed to follow the state’s protocol for electrocutions. There did not appear to be any smoke or vapor.

Witnesses at Lee Hall’s execution in December observed smoke, which had not been present at any of the preceding electrocutions, emanating from his head.

Sutton had no family members present during the execution and had requested them not to come to the prison in the days leading up to his death, according to TDOC officials.

Large’s sister, Amy Large Cook, expressed relief that “at least that chapter will be over” in a statement read after the execution by a TDOC official.

“John was denied the opportunity to live a full life with a family of his own,” Cook said. “He suffered a terrible and horrific death, and for that I will never forgive Mr. Sutton.”

Cook was present at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution while the execution took place, but she was not permitted to watch. Only Estep’s family was allowed to witness the execution, but none of his relatives came.

Tennessee was originally set to execute Sutton in 2015. Legal delays blocked that date.

Sutton’s attorneys hoped the courts or Gov. Bill Lee would intervene this time. They pointed to problems with the trial that put him on death row, and to his remarkable transformation during his decades in prison, where corrections officers said he had saved multiple lives.

Sutton was still a teenager when he embarked on the killing spree that shocked his East Tennessee community.

Investigators learned to recognize what they called the “Sutton signature” — bodies wrapped in plastic, bound in chains and weighted with cinder blocks.

He became a key player in investigators’ efforts to retrace the carnage, leading detectives from two states on searches for the corpses of people who never really existed.

He beat Large, 19, to death and fatally shot Almon, a 46-year-old Knoxville contractor. Then he targeted his grandmother Dorothy, 58, who adopted him after a childhood of abuse, neglect and addiction.

Sutton knocked her unconscious with a piece of firewood, wrapped her in a blanket and trash bags, chained her to a cinder block and threw her alive into the Nolichucky River in Hamblen County. She drowned in the icy waters, an autopsy found.

Dorothy Sutton’s daughter reported her missing when she didn’t show up for dinner on Christmas Day in 1979.

Nicholas Sutton eventually led authorities to Large’s body after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in his grandmother’s death and sentenced him to life in prison. He’d killed Large, 19, on a trip to Mount Sterling, North Carolina, in 1979, and buried his body in a shallow grave on property that belonged to Sutton’s aunt.

In October 1979, he shot Almon and dumped his body in a North Carolina quarry. Searchers found that corpse only after spending thousands of dollars searching in other spots as Sutton shifted his story.

Less than five years into his prison term, Nicholas Sutton helped stab Carl Isaac Estep, a convicted child rapist from Knoxville, more than three dozen times Jan. 5, 1985, at Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility.

That was when a jury sentenced Sutton to death.

Nicholas Sutton did not dispute his role in four killings, but his lawyers said a history of altruism behind bars and other mitigating factors showed he deserved mercy.

Inadequate trial representation had blunted Sutton’s opportunities to avoid the death penalty, they said. They added “pervasive childhood trauma” had warped his brain.

His father “was a violent, abusive and unstable man who suffered from severe mental illness, struggled with substance abuse and was repeatedly institutionalized,” the application read.

Nicholas Sutton started taking illicit drugs with his father by 12, his lawyers wrote, beginning a lifelong addiction.

Sutton’s lawyers said he had “gone from a life-taker to a life-saver” after becoming sober in prison.

His clemency application cited accounts from three prison officers who said Nicholas Sutton stepped in to save their lives when he didn’t have to, twice stepping between staff and angry inmates to diffuse potentially lethal conflicts.

Protesters outside the prison Thursday night brought signs urging guards to recognize Sutton’s good works by refusing to participate in his execution.

About 50 protesters huddled together in a small field just before Sutton’s death to pray.

Ashley Buchanan, a Vanderbilt University Divinity School student, said she got to know Sutton as part of a class at the prison. She shared memories of a man whose laugh she called “pure joy.”

“He was always making people laugh,” Buchanan said after reading a biography of Sutton to the crowd. “And that was my first impression of him.”

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