Thursday, April 17, 2014

Police obtain photo of man suspected in Murray homicide

By Pat Reavy, Deseret News

Published: Thu, Jan. 30 12:45 p.m. MST

 Murray police are looking for this unidentified panhandler in connection with the murder investigation of 85-year-old Shirley Sharp. Sharp was found dead in her Murray home Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, shortly after a man driving her car was stopped. The man drove off in the middle of a conversation with police.

Murray police are looking for this unidentified panhandler in connection with the murder investigation of 85-year-old Shirley Sharp. Sharp was found dead in her Murray home Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, shortly after a man driving her car was stopped. The man drove off in the middle of a conversation with police.

(Murray police)

MURRAY — Police have received a photograph of the man who they believe was driving Shirley Sharp's car on the morning she was found dead in her burning house.

Sharp, 85, was found killed in her house, 20 E. Winchester St. (6400 South), Saturday. An autopsy determined she died from blunt force trauma to her head.

Investigators discovered Sharp's body after Utah Transit Authority police officers stopped a vehicle at 75 W. 5300 South about 6 a.m. that day. The driver sped off in the middle of a conversation with the officers. But the officers wrote down the license plate number and discovered that the vehicle was registered to Sharp. The car was later found abandoned.

Investigators now believe they have a picture of the man who was driving Sharp's vehicle.

The man with a tan beard was photographed while panhandling on Jan. 23 on State Street near 6500 South, at the top of the off-ramp from I-215. The man's identity and whereabouts were unknown as of Thursday.

While panhandling, the man often drew attention from passers-by because of the signs he held, including "Too stoopid to steal" and "Too ugly for prostitution."

Sharp's family released a statement Thursday, thanking UTA and Murray police for their work. They also made a plea to the public to help them find the panhandler.

"Please examine the photos and video and get a clear picture of who this person is. Keep a watch out for him and report any tips to the Murray Police Department. You don’t know how much this would mean to us as a family to get him off the streets. The next victim could be one of your loved ones," the statement said.

The family members also said they will not let her tragic death define how they remember her. Rather, they will remember her love and generosity and will be at peace knowing she is reunited with her husband of 53 years who passed away 15 years earlier.

"We will continue to strive to live a life that exemplifies hers. We know she would want us to move forward and love others as she did," the family said.

Anyone with information on the case can call police at 801-840-4000 or 801-264-2673.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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1. AZKID
Mapleton, UT,
Jan. 30, 2014

Is there a gap in the reporting here? How did the authorities make the connection to the photo of the panhandler? Did I miss something?

2. The Reader
Layton, UT,
Jan. 30, 2014

I have seen that man with that sign on main street between the two blocks of the City Creek shopping Center within the last few days.

3. rvalens2
Burley, ID,
Jan. 30, 2014

@AZKID

Yes, you did miss something.

"Investigators discovered Sharp's body after Utah Transit Authority police officers stopped a vehicle at ... about 6 a.m. that day. The driver [a male] sped off in the middle of a conversation with the officers. But the officers wrote down the license plate number and discovered that the vehicle was registered to [Shirley] Sharp."

What was not stated in the news article:

When the Transit Police put out a description of the man in the car, someone discovered that it matched the photo of a man who was seen panhandling on State Street near the 6500 South off ramp on January 23rd. How they got the photo and from whom is left up to your imagination, but they did. (His unique sign got people's attention and someone decided to take a photo of him.)

Why the Transit Police decided not to follow the vehicle is also not stated.

There are gaps in the news story; however, I don't wish to be overly critical. It isn't easy being a news reporter. When you get it right, nobody notices, but make one little mistake and everyone becomes a critic.

4. Flashback
Kearns, UT,
Jan. 31, 2014

The cop was wearing a camera, which is why they have his photo sitting in the car.

5. NeilT
Clearfield, UT,
Jan. 31, 2014

I am a UTA driver. He was on my bus this morning. I called it in, he was never found. He is in the Ogden area. Got off at 1200 S Washington Blvd and walked south. He was using a cane. Look for him on mass transit. I checked with OPD. Nine calls on him. let's find him. The sooner the better.