Father Gets Maximum Sentence in Infant Death Case - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

12/12/02

Father Gets Maximum Sentence in Infant Death Case

It was back in 1985, in a little house in Smyer, west of Lubbock, when Robert Sharp somehow shook his three month-old son, Matthew enough to kill him. At the time, Sharp was not charged with murder, because the death was ruled an accident. But prosecutors re-opened the case in January of this year after a second autopsy revealed new evidence.

It has been a long and grueling four days in Hockley County; for attorneys to present evidence and a jury to decide whether a man is guilty of murder. But when it was all said and done, it all came down to somewhat of a compromise. Even though the jury felt Sharp accidentally killed his baby boy, they also felt Sharp should spend the maximum 10 years behind bars. It only took the jury four minutes to give Sharp the maximum sentence of 10 years.

"I don't think any murder case is fun," said one juror when he was leaving the Hockley County Courthouse.

"I think the swiftness of the verdict on the punishment phase, a four minute verdict, where they gave Sharp the maximum, spoke volumes to what they thought about this crime," said leading prosecutor Matt Powell of Lubbock.

Sharp will spend 10 years in prison for accidentally killing his child.

"Whatever makes them happy, I'm satisfied," said Sharp as he was escorted to a car that would take him to jail.

Sharp's attorney, Jack Stoffregen, has felt all along Sharp did not mean to kill his child.

"I feel like we had a strong case on the not guilty of murder and Robert has accepted responsibility," said Stoffregen.

But in a case that's been a roller coaster of guilt and innocence, Sharp flip-flopped on just what, if any, punishment he deserved.

"Do you think you got what you deserved?" asked NewsChannel 11.

"No, not really," answered Sharp.

Despite Sharp's feelings, much satisfaction for prosecutors. Powell says even though justice is delayed, that doesn't mean justice is not deserved.

"The reason why it's so interesting now, Matthew got a little justice today. After 17 years, Matthew got some justice. The world is a better place because of that here on earth," said Powell.

However, it's not over for Sharp. He could get an additional 20 year sentence if he is convicted in a separate case. He has to go to court in Moore County, north of Amarillo, for an indecency with a child charge. While Sharp was a police officer in Cactus, Texas, a woman accused Sharp for fondling her nine year-old daughter in 2001. It may be a year before he is in court again.

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