ATHENS — Kimberly Sutton said the fatal shooting in May of her husband, which she and their 12-year-old son witnessed, was a tragedy for the family though the boy is now “thriving” with the help of a local nonprofit that provides services for children and families.
“I lost my husband, and my son lost his dad,” said Sutton, who spoke at an Athens City Council meeting last week in appealing for special city funding for the Limestone Child Advocacy Center in Athens. “We’re completely broken. Our lives have changed.”
Sutton said her husband, Joey Sutton, 33, died on May 11, and since June 2, the son, now a seventh grader, has been in one-on-one trauma therapy counseling with a therapist at the advocacy center.
“He and his dad had a bond,” Sutton said after the council meeting, and she doesn’t know how the boy would have been able to cope with Sutton’s death without professional help.
“I’m 32 and I still have nightmares,” she said. “I can’t imagine how he feels.”
Sutton said her son is playing three sports at school and travel baseball, while remaining on the A-B honor roll. “He’s happy, he enjoys his life,” she said. “We’re trying to live our lives, and I’m trying to raise him like Joey would want him to be raised.”
The Suttons’ neighbor, Travis Stanley, 42, on Mill Valley Drive in East Limestone, is accused of fatally shooting Joey Sutton after an ongoing dispute over the son’s bicycle riding on the street, according to authorities. The Limestone County District Attorney's Office upgraded the charge against Stanley from murder to capital murder.
District Attorney Brian Jones said that as the investigation proceeded, the decision was made to charge Stanley with capital murder under a state law that lists as a capital offense murder by the defendant in the presence of a child under the age of 14 years at the time of the offense, if the victim was the child’s parent or legal guardian.
Becky Bentley, the advocacy center’s executive director, requested a special appropriation of $8,000 to use as matching funds for grant money. She said the agency provides free counseling and other services to victims of child abuse and neglect and to children who witness domestic violence and violent crimes.
“You’re investing in the lives of our children to protect them,” Bentley said to council members. Even with barriers due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, “we have served over 50 kids” who live within the Athens city limits, Bentley said.
“We live in a day and age when mental health for kids is so important,” said Sutton, who now lives with her son in Athens. “I can’t express how much my son has benefited” from the advocacy center’s services.
Earlier last month, the council approved $465,600 in special appropriations for various organizations for fiscal 2021, leaving a budget surplus of $19,884. Councilman Frank Travis said after the meeting that “we definitely intend to bring (the request) up at our next council meeting.”
In other business last week, the council, in a 3-0 vote, approved the $7,467 purchase of six temperature measurement devices, which will be mounted on stands and can detect if someone is not wearing a mask.
Amy Golden, the city’s customer relations manager, said two devices will be placed at the Athens Recreation Center, one at the customer accounts office on Jefferson Street and three at City Hall, including one at the building department there.
The city will seek reimbursement for the cost of the devices through the CARES Act.