Murder of Kelsey Grammer's Sister Inspired John Suthers to Become a Prosecutor

We've been reporting about recent comments by actor Kelsey Grammer regarding the unsuccessful parole bid of Freddie Glenn, who brutally murdered Grammer's sister Karen in Colorado Springs circa 1975.

Grammer has stressed that he continues to feel the weight of this tragedy every day -- and the homicide also had a major impact on Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, who became a prosecutor in part because of his small role in Glenn's prosecution.

See also: Kelsey Grammer Clarifies Forgiving Sister's Killer, "the Worst in the History of Colorado"

Suthers writes about Karen Grammer's slaying in No Higher Calling, No Greater Responsibility, a 2008 book subtitled "A Prosecutor Makes His Case." In an early section of the work, Suthers writes about a two-year internship he did at the district attorney's office in Colorado Springs, where he did research on a number of high-profile cases, including one involving notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.

Still, the one that arguably had the greatest impact on him "involved a group of young Army soldiers at Fort Carson who had recently returned from Vietnam," Suthers writes. The men formed a robbery gang that pledged to kill any victims who might be able to identify them -- a choice that eventually led to the murder of at least five people. Suthers notes that one of the men, nineteen-year-old Michael Corbett, attended a party where he reenacted one slaying "and exclaimed how exhilirating it had been to turn the knife in the victim's chest and listen to his bones crack."

Still, Suthers believes the "most heinous" murder in the spree was that involving Karen Grammer. An excerpt:
Grammer, eighteen years old, was at a Red Lobster in Colorado Springs. The restaurant had closed at 9 p.m. and she was waiting for her boyfriend to get off work. The gang of soldiers drove up for the purpose of robbing the restaurant. Finding it closed, they changed their plans and abducted Karen Grammer. They took her to an apartment and took turns raping her. They then drove around discussing, in her presence, what to do with her. Upon concluding they couldn't risk releasing her, a nineteen-year-old GI named Freddie Lee Glenn took her out of the car, stabbed her repeatedly and slit her throat. They left her for dead in an alley. But she wasn't dead yet. Grammer crawled about fifty yards to a trailer in a nearby trailer park. She attempted unsuccessfully to reach the doorbell, leaving bloody handprints on the side of the trailer. Karen Grammer died in that position, to be found by the trailer's occupant when he awoke the next morning.
Weeks later, police solved the case, Suthers points out, with Corbett and Glenn each sentenced to die as a result of their actions, although a subsequent U.S. Supreme Court ruling about the death penalty resulted in the punishment being changed to life in prison -- hence Glenn's recent parole hearing, during which Kelsey Grammer offered forgiveness but stressed that he felt he should never be freed. For his part, Suthers confirms that the experience "had a far-reaching impact" on him:
I sat through significant parts of the trials of Corbett and Glenn. I had never been exposed to such evil. It was inconceivable to me that anyone could have such casual indifference to human life, and I fully understood the community's outrage at such a heinous breach of the social contract. As a small part of the prosecution team, I experienced the immense satisfaction that prosecutors feel when they are successful in holding a defendant responsible for a reprehensible crime. I recognized that prosecutors in such cases stand as society's only acceptable alternative to vigilantism. They bear the heavy burden of vindicating the interests of both the victims and the public as a whole. I found the work incredibly fascinating and meaningful. And in the course of it, I decided I wanted to begin my legal career as a prosecutor.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts