Tennessee death row inmate set to die Thursday night in Nashville; victim’s family, former detective reflect on Sutton case


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The scheduled execution of a Tennessee death row inmate is set to happen Thursday night.

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Nicholas Sutton was sentenced to death in 1986 for fatally stabbing a fellow inmate on Jan. 15, 1985 at the Morgan County Correctional Facility. He had been serving a life sentence at the time for killing his grandmother, and he had also been convicted of murdering two men – John Large and Charles Almon.

Sister of victim still thinks of him every day

Amy Cook of Morristown has plans to be in Nashville Friday night, as the man who took her brother’s life prepares for his own death.

“He saw the good in everybody, he didn’t see the bad,” Amy Cook said of her brother, John Large. “And I think that’s one thing that probably led up to him getting mixed up with the wrong people.”

Among that crowd? Cook says current death row inmate Nicholas Sutton.

“I don’t know if Nick introduced him to the millions that they could make in these drug deals, and like I said my brother had dollar signs in his eyes, and so it probably just sparked some interest,” said Cook.

In 1979, Cook said her brother went off with Sutton and never came back. Investigators found his body months later, buried in a shallow grave in North Carolina.

Even after all this time, Cook still thinks about Large, every day.

“There’s something about my morning routine as I’m getting ready for work that makes me think of him. I couldn’t tell you what it is, but it sparks something, and I’ll think about him about every morning while I’m getting ready,” she said.

It’s clear Large made an impact on his little sister. Cook named her son after her late brother. She says she wishes he never met the man who took his life.

“He’s missed out on knowing my kids, and I missed out on knowing his kids. I just hear about other people having fights and arguments with their brothers and sisters, and I just wish I could fight with John,” she said.

But justice, she believes, is now on the way for her family, with Sutton’s execution scheduled Thursday night.

“I think it’s going to be justice served, and hopefully my mom and dad will be at peace, and John will be at peace,” Cook said.

Former detective reflects on the Sutton case

A former Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office detective was assigned to investigate three of Sutton’s murders.

Now four decades later, Martin Coffey still has memories of the case that are crystal clear.

“This is a picture of me digging in the background, as I see. To the right here, this is a picture of myself in the center, this is Nicky to our right, and this was the sheriff at the time,” Coffey said, while pointing to a picture in a magazine article from the 1980s.

A young and new detective at the time, Coffey was just 21 years old when he was tasked with investigating Nicholas Sutton’s crimes.

“When you start talking about three murder cases, that you do one right after the other, yes that was pretty significant, pretty early on,” he said.

The now 58-year-old inmate was only 18 when investigators say he killed his grandmother in Hamblen County. He’s also been convicted of murdering Charles Almon and John Large in North Carolina.

Coffey worked the case from beginning to end.

“I don’t know that I’ll ever actually forget these particular cases, especially with Nicky. Nicky was very cold. I’ve dealt with a lot of homicides since then, but I can’t remember ever being around someone who was so uncaring and unconcerned,” he said.

The murders Coffey worked landed Sutton behind bars for life. A death sentence actually came years later for killing a fellow Morgan County Correctional Facility inmate in 1985.

With Sutton’s execution set, the former detective is reminded of the case he spent months following.

“I feel like I know Nicky Sutton, or I certainly knew Nicky Sutton at that time. I haven’t had contact with Nicky in about 40 years now, but the Nicky that I knew at that time, had you met him and gotten acquainted with him, you’d think pleasant young man, very polite, very mannerly. But when you really got to know him, then you began to understand that killing someone really didn’t bother him,” Coffey said.

Execution scheduled for Thursday night

Sutton is set to die by electrocution at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. He chose that method over lethal injection – a provision in state law for people sentenced before 1999.

He was served his last meal Thursday evening at 5 p.m. ET.

RELATED: Tennessee governor will not intervene in execution of Nicholas Sutton; last meal selected

Sutton’s execution is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.

WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel will bring live updates from outside Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.


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