NBC’s ‘Dateline: Blind Justice’ described how Garrett Kopp, a hired hitman, attempted to kill the Suttons inside their Coral Gables, Florida, residence in August 2004. John Sutton survived the attack, but Susan Sutton died as a result of the assassination attempt. The police soon discovered Garrett did not work on his own but rather had help from someone inside the family to carry out the gruesome crime. So, who is Garrett, and where is he today? Let’s find out.
Who is Garrett Kopp?
John and Susan Sutton had retired for the night inside their residence on August 22, 2004, when a masked perpetrator broke into their residence and attacked them. He brandished a Glock 9 mm semi-automatic pistol while entering the house through a sliding glass door. According to court testimony, he walked into the master bedroom first and shot at John before heading toward Susan’s bedroom and shooting her six times. The couple frequently slept in separate bedrooms because of John’s snoring issues.
The police initially suspected John’s law firm’s partner, Teddy Monto, after learning about him being a marksman and his illicit sexual relationship with Susan. However, Teddy was cleared as a suspect after he provided the officers with an alibi and ballistics cleared his guns. As the police began searching for other leads, one of John’s closest friends pointed them toward the couple’s first adopted child, Christopher Sutton. But Christopher was found to be watching a film with his then-fiancé at the time of the murder.
While Christopher had a solid alibi, his difficult childhood and shaky relationship with his parents made him a prime suspect. The investigators ordered his phone records to find a shocking new lead. Lead Detective Larry Belyeu said, “We saw a particular number that came up several times.” According to police records, the number came up 331 times in the weeks leading up to and right after the murder. Larry added, “We identified that number as belonging to an individual by the name of Garrett Kopp.”
Court records state Garrett had been arrested less than 24 hours after the shooting for assaulting someone with a gun in another part of Miami. While he was out on bail, the police retrieved his gun — a Glock 9 mm — from his arresting officer, and ballistics reported it to be the murder weapon. The investigators brought in Garrett, then 21, for questioning. He denied all the accusations and the police had to let him go. However, reports state his ex-girlfriend came forward in March 2005 and accused him of the August 2004 shootout at Suttons.’
This time Garrett confessed to the shootout and alleged Christopher promised him money to carry it out. He claimed Christopher wanted to take revenge on his adoptive parents for sending him to an allegedly abusive boarding school when he was 16. He told the officers Christopher got him the gun and left the patio door unlocked so he could enter the house and shoot the Suttons. He had even provided Garrett with detailed locations of where the elderly couple slept.
Where is Garrett Kopp Now?
Garrett was arrested, but the investigators did not have enough of a warrant for Christopher. They required more than a convicted fugitive’s word that Christopher put him up to it. However, the police arrested Christopher on March 26, 2005, after they found his then-fiancé making several incriminating statements about how he was looking for a man to kill his parents. Garrett claimed Christopher allegedly promised him $100,000 for carrying out the hits — a part of his parents’ insurance payout.
John said, “When I was told that Garrett was the shooter, and of course, I put that together. Garrett and Christopher were like twins.” Garrett agreed to testify against Christopher in his July 2010 trial in exchange for a plea deal — the death sentence off the table and a 30-year prison term. Prosecutor Kathleen Hoague had to agree to the terms since she explained, “I don’t know if you could actually prove this case to a jury without having Garrett Kopp.”
Prosecutor Carin Kahgan stated, “They were friends for years. They were dope-smoking buddies. The plan was for Garrett Kopp to go into Sutton’s home and do the shooting and get paid once the defendant got his money.” However, Christopher’s attorney, Bruce Fleisher, said, “Garrett Kopp is a drug addict, a little thug. He needed a way out … and he told the detectives about Chris Sutton. … He kept his ass out of the electric chair.” Garrett’s testimony was supplemented by Jose Peon, an ex-con with a murder conviction on his juvenile rap sheet.
He alleged he met Christopher in 1999, and the latter had asked him whether he “knew of any hitman that would kill his parents.” Based on Garrett’s testimony primarily, Christopher was convicted and sentenced to three life terms without parole. Garrett was sentenced to his agreed-upon 30-year prison term in July 2010 after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, burglary, first-degree attempted murder, and aggravated assault. The 39-year-old is serving his sentence at the Avon Park Correctional Institution. His court records state he will be released in March 2035.