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Thursday, November 20, 1997

Suspected serial killer executed for 1982 West Texas abduction-slaying

By MICHAEL GRACZYK / Associated Press Writer

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) -- A suspected serial killer who buried bodies in the West Texas oilfields where he worked was executed Wednesday night for abducting and fatally stabbing a woman more than 15 years ago in an attack that also left her daughter dead.

Michael Eugene Sharp, 43, was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m., eight minutes after a lethal dose of drugs was released into his arms.

In a final statement, Sharp praised God and asked for forgiveness. He also expressed love to family and friends.

"I would like to tell the surviving victims here, society, my family and friends, that I ask that they forgive me for anything I have done. I beg for your forgiveness," he said.

"I would like to ask the Lord, Jesus Christ, for forgiveness and say that despite my circumstances, I have been blessed by Him."

Sharp nodded to an adjacent witness room and a woman whose mother and sister he had slain, and he nodded toward five friends who watched from another small room a few feet away.

He asked that the wall separating the two witness rooms be "brought down and ... and that we put this incident in the past and behind and build a future."

Sharp was the 35th condemned killer to receive lethal injection in Texas this year, adding to a state record for executions in a single year.

Winkler County District Attorney Mike Fostel said he's confident Sharp was responsible for killing five people and said the former oil rig tool pusher told investigators "he'd give me five more graves if I got off my high horse and quit trying to seek the death penalty."

"I never negotiated with him," Fostel said this week. " I had no regard for him then. I have no regard for him now. I'm not the kind of prosecutor that says death penalty in every case, but Mike Sharp is a cold-blooded serial killer. He would still be killing if he was out. It's time for him to die. It's past time for him to die."

Sharp was convicted of abducting at knifepoint Brenda Kay Broadway, 32, and her two daughters, 8 and 14, from a car wash in Kermit, just south of the Texas-New Mexico border, on June 11, 1982. They drove in Sharp's pickup truck into the desert in adjacent Ector County where the mother and daughters were sexually assaulted.

Ms. Broadway and her younger daughter, Christie Michelle Elms, then were stabbed to death. The older daughter, Selena, escaped, hid in some mesquite trees and wandered naked for eight hours and five miles before finding help at an oil rig.

The bodies of her mother and sister were found in shallow graves.

The older daughter's description of Sharp's winged horse tattoo on his chest led to his arrest several days later in Sweetwater. She also testified at Sharp's murder trials where a jury took 37 minutes to decide he should die for her mother's death. Sharp received a life term for her sister's murder.

Selena Kelly, now 30, is married, has a son and is living in Florida. She said she wanted to be in the death chamber to see Sharp get his "just desserts."

"He's gone and off the streets and for that I'm thankful," she said after watching Sharp die. "For my mom and my sister's sake, I felt I owed it to them to see it through to the end. And it's the end."

Sharp already had been known to West Texas authorities. At the time of his arrest, he was on parole for almost three years after serving 2-1/2 years of a 15-year term for aggravated robbery and theft in Ector County.

Sharp also was linked to but never charged with three other murders in the area, including two members of his oil rig crew -- William McNew, 27, and Tammy Davis, 20 -- clubbed to death with a shovel in February 1982, and the disappearance three months later of a pregnant 18-year-old Odessa woman, Blanca Guerrero.

The bodies of McNew and Ms. Davis were found buried near a rig where Sharp worked. Six months after Mrs. Guerrero disappeared, Sharp led authorities to her decomposed remains buried under a water tank.

He refused to take responsibility for her death. He also refused to discuss with reporters any of the other killings or disappearances of people from the area from late 1981 through the spring of 1982.

Sharp insisted, however, he turned his life around after finding God on death row. He gained notoriety among death penalty opponents as a founder of Lamp of Hope, an organization dedicated since 1991 to seeking compassion and forgiveness for condemned killers. It now claims some 700 members around the world.

"If he was for real, he would go ahead and give up the other graves he offered to me ... just so the families would know," Fostel, the prosecutor who sent Sharp to death row, said. "You don't change overnight. I've rarely seen anyone who went to the pen for any length of time that didn't start claiming that they found religion about the time they want something or someone to cut them a little slack."

Another Texas inmate, Charlie Livingston, is set to die Friday for a 1983 robbery-murder in Houston. At least three more executions are scheduled for December.

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