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Police investigate homicide discovered at Murray fire

Published January 25, 2014 9:03 pm

Crime • Firefighters discover body of 84-year-old woman inside her home.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Murray • Shirley Sharp lived most of her life in her small, red-brick home on Winchester Street in Murray. On Saturday morning, she would be murdered there.

The 84-year-old woman, who lived alone in the home at 20 E. Winchester St. (6400 South), was found dead inside about 6 a.m., after Murray firefighters were called there to extinguish a fire. Police would not say what the cause of death is but have ruled it a homicide, said Murray police Officer Kenny Bass.

A routine matter led police to Sharp's home. A Utah Transit Authority police officer saw a car drive through a bus-only lane near 75 W. Cottonwood St. and pulled the vehicle over, according to UTA spokesman Remi Barron.

During the stop, the driver "was moving a lot inside the car and then got out at one point and then got back in," said Murray police Officer Kenny Bass. Then the driver put the car into gear and drove away.

The UTA officer got the license plate number from the car and tracked the registration of the vehicle to Sharp's home. Once officers arrived, they noticed smoke coming from the house and called Murray Fire. The car, a Buick LeSabre owned by Sharp, was not at the home.

Inside the house, firefighters discovered Sharp's body. The victim was taken to the state Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy.

About noon Saturday, the LeSabre police were looking for was found abandoned near 4800 S. 500 West. Officers were still looking for the suspected driver Saturday afternoon and have released photos of him taken from UTA video. The suspect in the video is wearing blue jeans, an orange vest, and a light jacket with a hood. People with information can call Murray Police at 801-840-4000.

Sharp also had been the victim of a burglary last summer, her daughter-in-law, Jamie Sharp, said, when a burglar apparently walked in while she was working in the garden, but Murray police did not catch the suspect then.

Sharp was a well-known resident on Winchester ever since she and her now-deceased husband, Richard, moved there in 1952. Richard Sharp and his brother Virgil once owned Sharp Foods, a grocery store just across the street from their home, which is now occupied by a strip mall. The store closed in the mid-1970s, around the same time that Richard Sharp passed away from cancer, said Sharp's nephew R.D. Gatherum.

"She was a great lady, absolutely salt of the Earth," he said about his aunt. "She was one of the sweetest ladies you would ever meet. I just can't believe this happened."

Neighbors said Sharp didn't work at the store but raised her two sons at home. She also owned two kilns in her backyard and liked to make ceramic knick-knacks for the neighborhood.

"If you went into just about any of the houses here in Murray, you would see some of the ceramic figurines with her name under it," said Jamie Sharp. "She sold ceramics to probably half of the citizens of Murray."

After her husband's death, Shirley Sharp remained active and healthy, spending time with her family and raising roses and peonies in her garden every summer.

"This was not someone who was old. She was a very self-reliant woman and had no health problems," Jamie Sharp said. "She lived a life like a 30-year-old."

Though she lived alone, Gatherum, who lives about a mile away from his aunt, said he and her sons would visit her often to make sure she was OK. Both the state of Utah and a building owner each wanted to buy Sharp's home to develop on the property, but she always refused.

"She just wanted to be in the house where her husband lived," Gatherum said.


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