Family beg for death row prisoner who killed child rapist to be spared execution

A death row killer is set to be executed in an electric chair dubbed "Old Smokey", but family of one of his victims and prison guards want his life to be spared.

Nicholas Todd Sutton has been condemned to die for the killing of a child rapist and fellow inmate in the US state of Tennessee, in 1985.

Now aged 58, Sutton was serving a life sentence at the time for drowning his grandmother when he was 18 and murdering two men in 1979.

The execution is due to go ahead on Thursday evening, with Sutton choosing to die by electrocution rather than lethal injection, as his supporters argue he is a changed man who has saved lives behind bars.

He had previously asked to be executed by firing squad.

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Anna Lee, a Methodist pastor and the great-niece of Charles Almon, one of Sutton's victims, said executing the convicted killer won't bring his victims back or make Tennessee safer.

She told Newsweek:"For our family, the grief for that missing person in our life, that will never go away

"We look at Nick's life and we think that it still has meaning and value. We know that he has changed as a person and we also know he is going to still have consequences.

"He'll be in prison for his whole life, but we just feel like his death would do nothing to erase an earlier tragedy, but would just add a tragedy on top of the first one."

In 1979, Sutton killed his grandmother, Dorothy, by knocking her unconscious and throwing her into a river in Tennessee's Hamblen County.

He was convicted of murder and then confessed to fatally shooting Mr Almon, 46, from Knoxville, and beating to death his high school friend John Large, 19, from Waterville, North Carolina.

Mr Almon's body was dumped in a flooded rock quarry and Mr Large was buried in a shallow grave.

Sutton agreed plea deals and received two more life sentences for killing the men, Knox News reported.

He has chosen to die by electrocution rather than lethal injection, joining other recent Tennessee death row inmates who believed the electric chair wouldn't be as agonising as a lethal cocktail of drugs.

In a last-ditch effort to save his life, his supporters have sent a clemency petition to Governor Bill Lee.

They include correctional staff at the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville, where Sutton has been a maintenance man for 20 years.

He is allowed to carry tools such as hammers and screwdrivers because the guards trust him, said Kevin Sharp, a former judge who is working pro-bono on the clemency petition.

The petition asked the governor to commute Sutton's sentence to life without parole and claims Sutton has saved the lives of at least three prison staff members.

Former guard Tony Eden wrote in an affidavit that Sutton saved his life when he stopped other inmates from taking him hostage during a riot in 1985.

Mr Eden added: "Nick risked his safety and well-being in order to save me from possible death. I owe my life to Nick Sutton.

"If Nick Sutton was released tomorrow, I would welcome him into my home and invite him to be my neighbor.

"It is my opinion that Nick Sutton, more than anyone else on Tennessee's death row, deserves to live."

In another incident, Sutton rushed to help a former manager who slipped and hit her head on the floor in 1994. He retrieved her keys and used her radio to alert other staff.

In 1979, Sutton is said to have protected a guard who was trying to break up a brawl.

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