Cynthia King spent the entire day Friday in the kitchen of her daughter’s home cooking Caribbean-style jerk and curry chicken, red beans and rice, baked macaroni and cheese and potato salad.
King, 54, was hoping to sell plates of her food at $10 a piece to help to raise the $5,000 needed to cover the funeral and burial costs for her first cousin, Taurean Whitfield Sutton. Sutton, 30, was shot to death April 14 during an altercation with a tow-truck driver on St. Giles Street, near the St. Giles Presbyterian Church and Raleigh Gardens, a public housing complex.
Police said Sutton was in the cab of the tow truck when the driver shot him; a 911 recording indicated Sutton was shot several times. Police said late last week that no charges would be filed against a tow-truck driver, whose name has not been released.
“No one could believe that this would happen in a million years,” King said. “He died on the operating table. It made me sick to my stomach.”
King said Sutton was the father of three children, including a daughter born April 5 on his mother’s birthday. He did construction and landscaping work and loved playing pickup games of basketball. He also had what she described as a supernatural gift.
“He could see spirits just like he would see you or I,” she said.
King said Sutton was a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who moved to Raleigh with his mother when he was in elementary school. She died of cancer in 2006. Sutton had long since lost touch with his father in Puerto Rico and struggled with his mother’s illness and her death.
“He didn’t know what to do,” King said. “He didn’t want to go to the hospital to see her because he was scared because he knew that she was dying.”
King said Sutton “was on his own” after his mother died.
“We thought he was staying with a girl in Raleigh, but we found out he was all over the place,” King said. “He slept everywhere.”
One year after his mother died, Sutton, then 21, was charged with a day-long crime spree. He used a handgun to rob a man of his Ford pickup truck and broke into two homes where he stole handguns and jewelry, according to court records. An arrest warrant listed his address as “Anywhere, Raleigh.”
Sutton pleaded guilty in 2008 to armed robbery, felony breaking and entering and felony larceny. He was sentenced to a little over three years in prison and was released Feb. 8, 2011. Five months later, Sutton was convicted of violating the conditions of his release and served an additional eight months behind bars. He was released Jan. 24, 2012, with his rights restored, including the right to vote after he found work and paid nearly $2,500 to a public defender, according to the state Department of Public Safety.
“He was dealing with the wrong people,” a friend, Derrick Mitchell, said about Sutton’s one-day crime spree. “The only time he ever talked was about his momma. When he lost her he flipped out a little bit.”
Hours before he was shot, Sutton texted Mitchell and asked him for a ride to a house in North Raleigh where he said his car had been towed. Sutton’s Toyota Solara had been towed one day earlier from the Raleigh North public housing complex off Raleigh Boulevard, where it had broken down. He could not afford the $300 bill needed to get the car out, but he wanted to retrieve some items from the car.
“He said he really didn’t need the car. He wanted the baby seat. She’s a newborn,” Mitchell, 35, of Raleigh said about Sutton’s daughter. “He wanted his property. He wanted to go about it the right way.”
Mitchell texted that he was home. He expected Sutton to arrive in about 45 minutes, but he never heard from him again. He’s not sure why or how Sutton ended up at Raleigh Gardens where he was shot.
“He didn’t even have on sneakers. He had on slippers,” Mitchell said. “His clothes were at my house in the washer. He didn’t have on no shirt, no sneakers. So how was the driver in danger? He was unarmed.”
King’s weekend dinner drive netted just under $400. She learned Monday that a group of tow-truck drivers who were going to contribute to the funeral expenses opted not to after police decided not to file charges against the shooter.
“It’s okay if they don’t want to help,” King said about the tow-truck operators. “He was a good man and a good father.”