March 1, 2011

Shooter's father says Christopher Sutton "groomed" Garrett Kopp for murder

Posted: 09:43 AM ET

Atlanta, GA – Garrett Kopp's father, Mitchell, said he suspected something was terribly wrong in the friendship between his son and Christopher Sutton. Christopher seemed to have Garrett on a short leash, and Garrett would rush out of the house whenever Christopher would call for him. When Garrett was arrested the day after the shootings for an unrelated crime, Christopher confronted Garrett’s dad, pressuring him to get Garrett out of jail.

During a car ride with Garrett and Christopher, Mitchell found the courage to confront the men about their strange behavior.

"We're talking in the car about the Jets, or the Raiders, or whatever, and all of the sudden I say... 'I think you [Christopher] have something on my son. There's a weird behavior,'" Mitchell said. "And all of the sudden it got ice cold in the car."

This was the beginning of Mitchell's heartbreaking discovery that his son had taken a dark turn. But Mitchell said Garrett, who confessed to shooting John and Susan Sutton, started on the right path.

According to Mitchell, Garrett was a "normal kid" who only occasionally got into trouble.

"Growing up, he was an upstanding young kid," Mitchell said. "We had him in Christian schools. Did everything we could for him. All kinds of programs."

In high school, Garrett got into drugs, but Mitchell blames Christopher for Garrett's murderous actions, saying Sutton enticed his son with money and drugs.

"I think he was kind of picked and groomed for this if you ask me," said Mitchell. "He wasn't like that. He didn't break into people's homes before he met this guy."

Mitchell persuaded Garrett to confess to the shootings, telling his son, "Truth reigns. Karma comes back at you."

Today, Garrett is serving a 30-year prison sentence, but he and his father are trying to move forward. Mitchell visits his son often. Garrett has never explained his actions to his father; instead, the men keep their conversations positive, working to put the past behind them.

-Cara Hutt, In Session Production Assistant

Filed under: Trial Updates • Trials

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fran   March 1st, 2011 10:37 am ET

he hated his mom shot his dad and still doesn't care 25G S AND PHONE CA.LLS DID HIM IN GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL AND YOU DON'T GET 25 THOUSAND.

ed kuch   March 1st, 2011 10:44 am ET

the point was never made that if all Kopp wanted was the drugs why didn't he stack out the house and go in when no one was home without a gun ...

Educator   March 1st, 2011 10:56 am ET

After watchig most of the case and closing arguments, Christopher Sutton is absolutely innocent. There is way too much reasonable doubt and just circumstatial evidence. I bet the jury will have a "no guilty" verdict in a half hour.

LStatler   March 1st, 2011 12:39 pm ET

I believe that he is guilty – I would like to know if Mr Sutton Sr., would let Chris back in his home even if the verdict comes back as not guilty? The same question to Melissa, would she distance herself from Chris because of all of this?

Sad thing that Chris cried on the stand over being sent to camp, but not over the death of his mother.

If Chris was not friends with Mr Kopp why so many phone calls?
In my opinion, Chris hung himself by getting on the stand – body language and his anger showed while on the stand. Something that he said he did not have, if that is true and he did not hold any grudges, why the hostility and pain over the camp so long ago? Yes, he is guilty as hell.

pat weaver   March 1st, 2011 1:40 pm ET

i think the jury got it right in the sutton case and i think he wishes he was on a different highway

nita   March 1st, 2011 1:56 pm ET

As a former teacher of almost forty years, I have seen many children like your son. A child who was loved, disciplined by his parents, afforded many extras(sports camps, band, clubs, etc.) along with the academics, and given a stable home life with hardworking parents would be expected to have an easy and uneventful move into adolescence....but sometimes things might go awry at no fault of your own.

Please know you did the best you knew how and continue to have that positive relationship with your son. It is commendable that you continue to stand by your child eventhough he made choices you did not condone. I pray you will continue to live your life to the fullest and enjoy each day of your retirement!

Zack   March 1st, 2011 3:26 pm ET

I knew Chris personally from about 1990-1992 as we attended Coral Gables Senior High School together. We lived only 3 blocks from each other and hung out several times over a period of about 6 months until it became clear to me how dangerous he was.

Now, with hindsight, I realize that it does not suprise me one bit that he could be responsible for murdering his parents.

While I don't know if he was selling drugs when I knew him he did boast about breaking into houses in the neighborhood and stealing things. He threw muriatic acid bombs at neighborss, too. I also remember him being so very abusive to his parents such as yelling at and disparaging them. Theirs was definately a tumultuous relationship and he was, indeed, extremely troubled.

I am now so gratefull that we stopped hanging out before any of this happened because, who knows, he could have tried to threaten me or my family.

I only wish I could have testified against him in trial.

Chris, I'm sure you remember me. I hope you rot in hell for what you've done. You are lucky to have gotten life for having your parents killed. I am so appalled.

MARY   March 1st, 2011 7:15 pm ET

Mr. M. Kopp, there by the grace of God go I. It's nice to see a parent that knows thier child did something wrong and wants them to do the right thing in the end. The healing can now begin for you and your son.
I admire your honesty.

beth from gaylord   March 1st, 2011 11:37 pm ET

I was disappointed with the outcome-I think Kopp lied to get a better sentence. Chris's dad was sooooooooo cold & aloof during the victim statement part-no wonder his kid had no use for his dad & no wonder his wife cheated on him.

Glad I'm not from Gaylord   March 2nd, 2011 8:48 pm ET

I think this was a case of nature versus nurture. The daughter Melissa is a fine young woman, smart and accomplished;truly has her act together. But Chris was something else entirely. Doing drugs, selling drugs,not going to school at all and thrown out of 5 schools before being sent to Samoa. His parents did what they had to. This kid was bad news from age 8 it was reported by other family members. Culminated in murder. Spending the rest of his arrogant life in prison. Enjoy yourself, you'll wish you were back on the beach n Samoa playing volleyball once again.

kate   March 3rd, 2011 2:05 pm ET

Why do these kids look so much like the parents and family? Is there something there that didnt come out at trial. Should have done a dna.

Devi   March 11th, 2011 1:13 pm ET

What difference does it make if "these kids" look like their parents? It was mentioned Chris was adopted. DNA holds no relevance when your bought into or born into a family unit when you decide to murder them.

lone wolf   March 19th, 2011 2:02 am ET

Sutton senior gets a lot of sympathy because of all he has endured, and rightfully so. But...

You know how most people of means deal with "problems"? They pay to have others resolve them. So their son is rebellious, angry, just a pain and difficult "task". Taking up too much time from their business or social events... send him half way around the world to some behavior modification program. There he will surely be "corrected". Or he will harbor enough anger and resentment, and when the cup over flows, well, things can get ugly.

Daddy Sutton while he provided all things money can buy , failed to give what his son what he yearned for the most. I looked into Chris Sutton's eyes while he was on the stand and my impression was that he was bright, articulate, well spoken...and deeply hurt.

This theory of the State that he "master minded" this crime is ludicrous. A man that is that smart, has been planning this crime for that long, simply does not make the dozens of mistakes he made during this time. No way, no how.

There is much more to this than meets the eye... and you will see this in the not too distant future...

Cari   March 28th, 2011 11:08 pm ET

I totally believe that Christopher groomed this kid to kill is parents. Christopher wanted everything his parents had. I saw no emotion from him when the subject of his mother came up. The only emotion I saw was when they found him guilty.
I feel for Garrett Kopps father and for Garrett too, I know some of you will not see my point but Garrett was only 15 when he met Chris Sutton and he was much older, he bribed Garrett with money, drugs, etc... just as his father said. What really distrubed me was when Garretts dad said "Chris called he is coming to take you fishing" and Garrett wanted to leave quickly before Christopher came to get him. That to me sounds like Garrett was intimidated by Christopher. I feel that Garrett was plied with drugs, money and whatever else by Christopher, this was part of the grooming process. It is too bad Mr. Kopps life was ruined by someone who only wated to use him to kill his parents. I feel for Mr. Sutton also aand the loss of Mrs. Sutton. Look at the damage this kid Christopher has done to a lot of people.

Kim   April 4th, 2011 11:46 pm ET

I too was moved to tears while watching the interview Mitchell Kopp gave regarding his son's culpability in the crimes committed against the Suttons. As stated in prior comments "but for the grace of God there go I". My heart was broken over the tragedy of so many lives being destroyed by the sociopathic antics of nothing less than a completely spoiled brat...Christopher Sutton. I applaude the dignity and grace displayed by both fathers during this trial, and pray that God will grant them strength and peace as they move forward on the path they both now walk.

bromah   May 21st, 2012 2:13 am ET

Directed to Zack: Chris Sutton wasn't in highschool in 90-92. He talked alot of smack though I will give you that.

To give you an idea about this family, I once was hired to clean and move John Suttons records from his home, office and ware house to a larger warehouse. They had a cat that had been dead for years fully decayed to fur, bones and hair sitting in a box in their garage. When we arrived (yes i was there working with Chris Sutton) the parentals were late so Chris went around back and broke in through the infamous sliding glass door. Everyone knew about it. It was no secret.....

Kopp I knew him too. dumb kid with issues....never thought he would grow up to become a criminal and a crack head.

Oh and btw folks there is one more person that knows what really happened that night. But he cant' testify because of the priest/confessor relationship. He's sorry but it just aint kosher with the law.

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