The DNA of a man killed during a daytime robbery aboard a Metro train was found on the blade of a discarded folding knife near where D.C. police say his alleged attacker paused moments after the assault, a D.C. homicide detective testified Friday.
The detective, Gabriel Truby, said that although Kevin Sutherland’s DNA was found on the knife, the DNA of Jasper Spires, the alleged attacker, had not been detected on the weapon, which was found in a trash bin in the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station. Police have said that witnesses told them that Spires paused near the bin after he fled from the train.
Authorities say Spires, 18, stabbed Sutherland, 24, more than 30 times during an attempted robbery on the Red Line on July 4. Sutherland, who on his way to meet friends to enjoy July 4 festivities, was a passenger in the second car.
At the Friday hearing, Spires smiled broadly and broke out into laughter, as he did at a court appearance last week for a separate assault charge.
Citing Spires’s behavior, Judge Robert E. Morin, ruled that Spires undergo a psychological examination. The judge also said he found enough evidence that Spires committed first-degree murder while armed and ordered Spires to remain in jail until trial.
During the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy played a Metro security surveillance video that showed, according to the detective, Spires running off the Metro train and through the station at around 12:48 p.m. Rakoczy said the surveillance video was from just minutes after Sutherland was stabbed.
The video showed a man running through the station carrying a red backpack, and Truby testified that the man was Spires, who was also carrying a pair of camouflage pants that fell out of one of his two backpacks. The pants were later retrieved by a witness to the stabbing who followed behind Spires. Truby said Spires’s DNA was found on the pants. Truby also said that Spires later discarded a black backpack, which contained his insurance card.
Rakoczy described the “brutality” of the attack, and she also reminded the judge that according to prosecutors, after attacking Sutherland, Spires threw the victim’s cellphone at him while he was lying on the train floor and then tried to rob other passengers.
But Spires’s attorney, Antoini Jones, argued that authorities arrested the wrong man. Jones argued that two witnesses misidentified Spires when they looked at a photographic lineup. Jones also said the clothes the man was wearing in the video were not the same clothes his client was wearing hours earlier. Spires was captured on videotape at 2nd Police District headquarters on the morning of July 4 when he went to retrieve his belongings following an assault arrest July 2.
Truby testified that two officers who arrested Spires in that case recognized Spires from the Metro station video. But Jones argued that the officers’ identification was tainted because Spires was charged with assaulting one of them during the arrest July 2.
Friday’s hearing was Spires’s second within a week. He was in court a week earlier for a preliminary hearing in the July 2 simple assault case in which he was charged with threatening and trying to rob a man on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Friendship Heights.
Court documents state that Spires waved an empty wine bottle at the man, who tried to walk away. Police allege that Spires then put his hands around the man’s neck and searched through his pockets. Nothing was taken, and Spires was arrested a few minutes later. He was released from jail July 3 and returned to the precinct on the morning of July 4 to retrieve his belongings.
During the hearing last week, Spires became seemingly agitated and interrupted the judge overseeing the hearing with questions as to why he was in the courtroom.
“I want to talk. What is this hearing for?” Spires asked the judge. He then smiled broadly and began to laugh.
Spires spoke out only briefly in court Friday while the detective testified about details in the misdemeanor assault case. But his attorney quickly quieted him.
After the hearing, Jones attributed his client’s courtroom behavior to nervous youthfulness. “He’s only 18. This case would cause anyone to be nervous,” he said.
Jones confirmed that one of Spires’s relatives was present in the courtroom, but declined to identify who was there.
Sutherland’s cousin Anita McBride also sat in the courtroom. McBride said Sutherland’s family simply “wanted to get to the cause of what happened.”
“This is going to be a long haul, and they’re just looking for comfort in any way they can,” McBride said.
Spires’s next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 28.