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Roy police say slaying was 'case of self-defense'

Published December 18, 2010 12:00 pm

A 17-year-old girl shoots the man who was choking his ex-girlfriend, her aunt.
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Roy • Family members of John Sharp say they realized there was no changing his mind Thursday after they bailed him out of the Weber County Jail.

Intent on killing his ex-girlfriend, Sharp picked up a knife, told his older brother, Ralph, "I'm going to get her," and stepped out of the house.

The family had earlier let his ex-girlfriend know the 37-year-old Sharp was out of jail, but now made a second frantic phone call to warn her he was heading her way. But by that time, Mellony Pursel could be heard on the phone yelling "you got to get out of here," to Sharp.

The line went dead.

When police arrived Thursday at Pursel's home at 1920 W. 4400 South around 6:30 p.m. they found her standing outside with a gunshot wound to her shoulder. With her was her 17-year-old niece and her niece's baby. Inside the home, Sharp was dead from a gunshot.

A day after the shooting, police said Sharp had attacked Pursel and was strangling her when her niece ordered him to stop.

When the attack continued, the girl grabbed a gun. She fatally shot Sharp as he lunged for her, said Roy Police Chief Greg Whinham.

Sharp died from two gunshot wounds to the chest and the 32-year-old Pursel was hit by the same bullets that passed through Sharp, Whinham said. The niece fired the .357 caliber handgun while her 7-month-old baby laid in a carrier on a couch, just feet away in the living room.

Sharp's family said Pursel took the gun from her father's home two day's prior to the incident.

Police said Friday they would not arrest the 17-year-old girl.

"What we are looking at is a case of self-defense," Whinham said.

Pursel was transported to a McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden and is expected to recover.

Even though Sharp could be intimidating when angered, his family did not belief he would ever attempt to hurt anyone.

Sharp didn't have a criminal history of domestic violence.

"He was the most heart-felt person," Charlotte Adams said of her son, adding that he once pulled an elderly woman out of a burning truck in South Dakota when he was working as a truck driver.

"John, in the most part, was a very good person, but he had a trouble with his temper," said his father Lonnie Adams. He added that when his son's temper flares up, it is hard to reason with him and get him to calm down.

"If we are judging anybody, let's judge him for his good part," his father said.

Nicole Sharp divorced John Sharp in October. She said he was never abusive during their 17-year relationship and never feared for her safety around him.

Sharp had just quit a job as a tow truck driver because he wasn't getting paid, Charlotte Adams said, adding that her son was under stress because he "wanted to take care of Mellony."

His family said Sharp had even talked of plans to get married to Pursel in the next four months.

Sharp's family had no ill will toward the 17-year-old and was relieved to hear that police do not plan to charge the girl.

"I am sure she was scared to death," Lonnie said. "I feel like she felt like that [shooting Sharp] was all she could do."

Jeff Lower, who referred to Sharp as a brother and called him "Tex," said Sharp was in "good spirits" when they spoke two days prior to the incident. He said they only talked about the holidays and concerns for other family members.

"There was no indication things were going to happen the way they did," Lower said. "He wasn't in the state of mind that would make you think this kind of thing would happen."

Sharp's family said they felt police should have been at the home before the shooting happened because they indicated to officers where Sharp was headed and that he had a knife.

Whinham said there was a confusion between where Sharp actually was because the family had first told police Sharp was at his parents' home. When police arrived at the parents' home, they learned Sharp was on his way to see Pursel, and that he had taken a knife.

Talk about Sharp having a knife, "was not part of a dispatch call," Whinham said.

Police had already been called to the home twice on Thursday, Whinham said.

Sharp had been living at the home with Pursel. The couple was separating and he was in the process of moving out, Whinham said.

Sharp went to the home around 4 a.m. Thursday. Pursel didn't want him there, so she called police, who escorted him away, Whinham said.

Later that morning, Sharp returned to the home and began rampaging and breaking furniture. Pursel called police again, who came to the house and arrested Sharp on suspicion of domestic violence, Whinham said. Sharp was booked into Weber County jail about 11 a.m. He was released at 5 p.m. with an order not to contact the Pursel.

"This is something we do far too often" Whinham said about booking and releasing domestic violence suspects on the same day.

Lonnie Adams said the jail did not notify Pursel that Sharp had been released. The first she heard about it was when the family called her, Adams said.

In a previous story, Weber County sheriff's Capt. Klint Anderson told The Tribune that jail officers notify victims when a domestic violence suspect is released if that suspect is under a no-contact order — a temporary instruction by a judge not to approach a victim. But jail officers do not notify victims of a release if the suspect is under a protective order.

A victim must petition for a protective order, which is designed to temporarily protect a person from the suspect until the petitioner can have a court hearing to get a full protective order, according to Utah state law. It orders the respondent not to harm the victim or anyone who lives with them and to stay away from their home.

A provision in the state's judicial code requires that jails make "a reasonable effort" to notify a victim of the suspect's release if a protective order is served while the suspect is in jail. But that code is not enforceable as it gives "good faith immunity" to agencies it covers, said Paul Murphy, spokesman for the Utah Attorney General's Office.

"It's a recommendation — an effort to protect the victim," Murphy told The Tribune in the earlier story.

In 2009, an Ogden man who was booked on suspicion of beating his wife with a belt was released from jail for a work-release program. His wife, who had gotten a protective order after the arrest, was not notified by the jail.

Shortly after his release, the man abducted her along with her friend, and stabbed the friend to death.

Out of the five major jails in the state, the Salt Lake County Jail is alone in its practice to always tell domestic violence victims when a suspected offender is released.

Jason Bergreen contributed to this story.

cimaron@sltrib.com