Friends, family mourn loss of toddler

Few spoke as dozens of people gathered outside Ambrose Funeral Home of Lansdowne Thursday morning for the funeral service of Joseph "Joe Joe" Sutherlin to begin.

Inside, an open white casket held the 3-year-old Catonsville resident, who was killed in a car accident in Hanover June 8, four days before his fourth birthday.

"He was a fun little boy," the boy's aunt, Amber Corser, said through tears. "He was never sitting down. Never. He couldn't sit still. He was always up. He was always moving."

Corser recalled how Joe Joe loved to watch scary movies, such as "Halloween" and "Nightmare on Elm Street," and that the pair would often do so together.

"He loved spending time with his cousins. They were like his best friends," Corser said. "He was so loved. I don't know what else to say. I'm at a loss for words right now."

About six dozen people filed into the funeral home, many stopping to look at a collage that contained dozens of pictures of Joe Joe.

At the rear of the parlor, a framed 8- by 11-inch photograph of the little boy with an image of cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants on the matting stood on an easel.

About a dozen baskets and vases of roses surrounded the casket, which had a SpongeBob SquarePants balloon attached to it and several teddy bears along the kneeler in front.

People sniffled, sobbed and passed tissues throughout the 20-minute service.

According to a release from the Anne Arundel County police department, Joe Joe and five teenaged passengers were heading south on Ridge Road when the 1995 Plymouth Acclaim they were riding in hit a tree at 8 p.m. on June 8.

Joe Joe was sitting on the lap of his aunt, Britney Shiflett, 18, in the rear center seat with a seatbelt on, but was not in a child safety seat, according to the release.

Each of the teenagers in the car sustained "severe injuries" and were transported to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in critical condition.

The little boy was transported to St. Agnes Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The driver of the car, Buck Benny, 16, a Lansdowne resident, had only a learner's permit, said Justin Mulcahy, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County police department.

"Preliminary investigation determined that speed, reckless driving and driver error were contributing factors in the crash," according to the release from Anne Arundel police.

"The severity of the injuries and the death of the three-year-old child were the result of the non-usage of occupant safety restraints/safety belts and a child safety seat," according to the release.

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