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Dr. Richard SHARPE






A.K.A.: "Cross-dressing wife-murderer"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Cross-dressing - Millionaire Harvard dermatologist
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 14, 2000
Date of arrest: 2 days after
Date of birth: 1954
Victim profile: His estranged wife, Karen Sharpe, 44
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on November 29, 2001. Committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell on January 5, 2009
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Cross-dressing wife-murderer found hanged

Millionaire Harvard physician was serving life in prison for killing

Jan. 6, 2009

A cross-dressing, millionaire Harvard dermatologist serving life in prison for shooting his estranged wife to death has been found hanged in his cell, a prison spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Richard Sharpe was found by his cellmate at MCI-Norfolk on Monday evening and was declared dead at a hospital, said Department of Correction spokeswoman Diane Wiffin.

"He tied a bedsheet to the top bunk," Wiffin said. She declined to characterize the death as a suicide, however, saying it remained under investigation by the corrections department and the Norfolk district attorney's office. An autopsy was planned.

Sharpe, 54, had tried to hang himself in his cell in 2002.

He was convicted in 2001 of shooting his wife, Karen, in the foyer of her Wenham home in July 2000 as her brother and others looked on. In 2007, he was acquitted of charges he tried to hire a hitman to kill the prosecutor in his murder trial.

Sharpe had been a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty who ran several businesses outside his medical practice and parlayed his earnings into millions in the stock market.

Angry over losing money

Prosecutors said he killed his wife because he was angry over the prospect of losing $3 million in their divorce.

His arrest drew national attention when photographs of him wearing slinky dresses and fishnet stockings were widely published. His wife had said in earlier affidavits that he stole her birth control pills in an effort to enlarge his breasts.

At his trial, Sharpe testified that he began cross-dressing at a young age to escape his father's rage. Defense witnesses, including Sharpe's siblings, testified that Sharpe was abused for years by his father. He testified he didn't remember much about the night of the killing.

A defense psychiatrist said Sharpe suffered from a half-dozen disorders, including depression and intermittent explosive disorder, which causes bursts of rage or aggression. The expert said alcohol made them worse.

But prosecutors said Sharpe faked symptoms of mental illness. He did not kill his wife in a burst of rage, they argued, but planned the slaying after she left him.

Mark Smith, a partner in the law firm that represented her in the divorce, said he hoped that Sharpe's death "brings some closure to this nightmare for the three Sharpe children."

The 2007 trial centered on allegations that Sharpe approached another prison inmate for help in killing Robert Weiner, who had brought the murder case against Sharpe as an Essex County prosecutor. Sharpe was acquitted in a four-day trial.

"Whenever a person takes their own life, obviously you feel badly for that person, but my true sympathy is with Karen Sharpe," Weiner said Tuesday. "She died needlessly."


Killer dermatologist found dead in cell

Prison hanging ends life of cross-dressing doctor turned murderer

By Gail McCarthy - Gloucester Daily Times

January 06, 2009

One of the most tragic and bizarre murder stories ever to jar Cape Ann came to an abrupt end Monday night, when Dr. Richard Sharpe was found dead, hanging from a bed sheet in his cell at the state prison in Norfolk.

News of the death of the cross-dressing Gloucester dermatologist, serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife, spread quickly here yesterday.

Sharpe, 54, was found hanged in his cell with a bedsheet tied to his bunk bed at Norfolk state prison just before 7:30 p.m. Monday, prison officials said. He was reportedly found by his cellmate.

Yesterday afternoon, a spokesman for the Norfolk District Attorney's office said an autopsy was completed, but the medical examiner has left the cause and manner of Sharpe's death listed as undetermined, pending toxicology reports. Prison officials had not, as of last night, declared the death a suicide.

Sharpe, formerly of 8 Great Ledge Road, West Gloucester, shot his estranged wife, Karen Sharpe, 44, on July 14, 2000, with a high-powered rifle. The couple's two younger children, Karen Sharpe's brother and a baby sitter were in Karen Sharpe's Wenham home at the time of the shooting. Karen Sharpe had a restraining order against her husband at the time of the incident.

The weapon was never found. A jury convicted him in 2001, but he would appear in criminal court again years later when, in 2007, he was acquitted of charges that he plotted to kill the prosecutor in his murder trial.

Richard and Karen Sharpe, who were childhood sweethearts, were going through a divorce after nearly 27 years of marriage. They had three children, including two who were 7 and 5 when their mother was killed, and a 26-year-daughter, Shannon.

A manhunt ensued as police searched for Sharpe, who was found in New Hampshire 30 hours later after a motel clerk recognized Sharpe's face from a television news report. Police tracked him to Pine View Lodge in Tuftonborough, N.H., where he had registered for a motel room under his own name.

Gloucester police Lt. Michael McLeod, along with Sgt. William Leanos, remembers being there at the time of his arrest.

McLeod, now retired after serving as police chief, received a call from a fellow police officer yesterday morning about Sharpe's death.

"I remember that night in New Hampshire. He was strange that night. He showed no remorse," McLeod said. "It was pouring buckets of rain that night. It was torrential. They evacuated as many people as they could from the motel and threw in the biggest can of tear gas I ever saw in my life. He came right out. They put him to the ground and took him away."

McLeod sat with Sharpe at the Tuftonborough Police Department after the arrest.

"He said just a few syllables. He wasn't upset. He wasn't screaming or crying. It was like 'OK, you got me,'" recalled McLeod.

During the manhunt, a Gloucester police dispatcher informed officers who were searching for Sharpe in Gloucester that the suspect may be dressed as a woman. When Sharpe was being placed under arrest in New Hampshire, McLeod said he was shocked at the doctor's appearance, because he looked like he was developing breasts.

Sharpe's case drew national attention when photographs of him wearing slinky dresses and fishnet stockings were widely published after his arrest. His wife had said in earlier affidavits that he stole her birth control pills in an effort to enlarge his breasts.

Sharpe, who was affiliated with both Addison Gilbert and Beverly hospitals, also was an instructor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. Over the years, he had hundreds of patients on Cape Ann. When he first came to Gloucester, he had his office at Cape Ann Medical Center at Blackburn Industrial Park. He later moved to an office near O'Maley Middle School and, lastly, had an office at the Shaw's plaza on Eastern Avenue.

He is remembered as a smart doctor who helped patients, but also as a doctor who often unnerved patients who would go for an office visit for a specific mole or skin lesion, then be asked to remove all their clothes with no bedside manner.

He was a successful doctor, who branched off into other businesses including laser hair removal, and made millions of dollars. But those who knew him also saw his decline and saw the volatile relationship between the couple grow worse.

Alan Estes, a Gloucester musician, knew Sharpe because his wife at the time worked at Sharpe's medical office for many years, and he also did work on the doctor's house. He later wrote about the tragic incident in a song titled "The Ballad of Dr. Sharpe."

Estes said his ex-wife had left Sharpe's practice before the shooting.

"Everybody was watching him go down hill," he said. "He was a successful businessman and doctor and he was always walking a fine line of lunacy. People saw him losing more and more touch with reality as time went on."

Estes heard the news of Sharpe's death yesterday from a fellow musician friend, Sal Baglio of Swampscott, who left him a message and sang part of Estes' song yesterday morning.

"I couldn't believe it," said Estes, who recalled that Sharpe often came to the Rhumb Line, accompanied by his wife, after the office closed to hear Estes play.

"How tragically it all went down," Estes said. "He showed up at the door while the two kids are in the house, and took their mother's life. I saw a very messed-up person from day one and the song I wrote is one of desperation."

Estes said so many residents knew him from being a patient and because he lived in Gloucester.

"For a while he was a fairly social guy," he said.

Fred Shrigley, owner of the Rhumb Line on Railroad Avenue, remembers Sharpe because he frequented the nightspot to hear Estes, a regular performer there.

"He would come in with Estes' wife and listen to the music. She was a beautiful woman and I think he liked to be seen with her," recalled Shrigley. "But he started to get weirder and weirder."

Shrigley said Sharpe was eventually barred from the bar after an incident when the doctor was acting erratically, under the influence of some unknown substance, and harassed the bar's doorman.

Some residents are unable to talk about Sharpe and what happened.

Suzanne Crossen of Manchester, a former employee of Sharpe, testified at the trial. When contacted yesterday, she said she had no comment at this point. According to the Court TV Web site, she resigned from her job after she learned that his wife left him and was hiding from him.

Other Cape Ann residents who testified at the trial included Dr. Cynthia Bjorlie, who worked in the same office building at Cape Ann Medical Center, and Paula Hiltz, a former employee.

Sally Loring of Manchester, a former patient, echoed the words of Estes and many others, and was not surprised at the news, given the tragic situation of the incident on all sides.

"What does someone do with himself serving a life sentence? I just don't know. I thought of sending him some books at first, but decided I just didn't want to do that," said the 80-year-old Loring. "His wife is gone and someone is raising their children. The whole thing is terribly sad."

Not long after Sharpe was arrested, he was transferred to Bridgewater State Hospital because officials feared he might attempt suicide. Sharpe, then 45, was moved from the Essex County jail to the Bridgewater psychiatric hospital.

After his conviction, Sharpe also tried to hang himself in his cell in March 2002. His death yesterday remains under investigation by the state Department of Correction and Norfolk District Attorney William Keating.


July 14, 2000: Karen Sharpe shot and killed.

July 16, 2000: Richard Sharpe arrested.

July 20, 2000: Karen Sharpe's family files wrongful death suit against Richard Sharpe.

July 2001: Fellow inmate accuses Sharpe of offering him $1 million to help Sharpe escape.

July 21, 2000: Richard Sharpe charged with murder and held without bail.

Nov. 29, 2001: Sharpe convicted of first-degree murder, sentenced to life in prison.

December 2001: Wrongful death suit settled for $5 million.

March 2002: Sharpe tries to kill himself in prison.

August 2007: Fellow inmate says he and Sharpe plotted to kill Sharpe's prosecutor, Sharpe found not guilty.

Jan. 5, 2009: Sharpe found hanged by a bed sheet in his cell.


Sharpe convicted of first-degree murder

November 27, 2001

LAWRENCE, Mass. (Court TV) Rejecting Richard Sharpe's claims of insanity, a jury Tuesday convicted the transvestite dermatologist of first-degree murder in the shooting of his estranged wife.

The jury of six women and six men deliberated for nearly 12 hours before returning the verdict. The conviction means Sharpe will receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced Thursday morning.

The 47-year-old defendant, dressed in a white shirt and navy tie, kept his eyes closed as the verdict was read. When the jury foreman announced the first-degree finding, a cry of "Yes!" rose up from the family and friends of Karen Sharpe, seated in the front row of the courtroom. Sharpe, who had two outbursts during the trial, said nothing but scowled as bailiffs immediately placed him in handcuffs.

Judge Christine McEvoy's court was packed for the reading of the verdict. The case has attracted intense media coverage on Massachusetts' north shore, where Sharpe had a successful practice and several medical businesses that made him a millionaire. After the murder, surprised locals learned that Sharpe had a penchant for cross-dressing, and photographs of him in a wig and fishnet stockings accompanied newspaper articles about the couple's rocky marriage.

Several months before the shooting, Karen Sharpe, a mother of three, had left the 26-year marriage and obtained a restraining order against Sharpe, who, she claimed in divorce papers, had abused her physically and verbally throughout their relationship. On July 14, 2000, Sharpe confronted his wife in the foyer of the home where she was staying with their two youngest children. With three witnesses looking on, he fired a single rifle shot to her chest, killing her.

During the two-week trial, Sharpe never disputed shooting his wife, but he claimed he was insane at the time. Taking the stand in his own defense, he told jurors that a vague "compulsion" to reunite his family led him to her house with a loaded gun. Jurors, however, apparently did not believe his testimony that mental illness and a toxic combination of red wine and prescription medicine left him unable to remember much of the shooting or remember why he had taken her life.

They also apparently discarded the testimony of a defense psychiatric expert, Dr. Kenneth Ablow, who diagnosed Sharpe with several mental problems, including major depression, borderline personality disorder and intermittent explosive disorder, and said he was not criminally responsible for the shooting. Ablow traced Sharpe's problems back to his abusive childhood and told jurors the doctor began dressing as a woman as a young teen to avoid his father's insults.

Jurors seemed to agree with prosecutor Robert Weiner who urged them during closing arguments to "put aside the psychobabble."

"Child abuse is not an excuse," he told them. Weiner painted Sharpe as a calculating murderer who had planned the insanity defense as part of the "perfect crime" of killing his wife.

"He's fakin' it," he shouted at the panel during closings. Weiner contended that Sharpe wasn't crazy, but furious because he believed his wife had stolen $3 million from him. The prosecution called a series of business associates and acquaintances of Sharpe who testified the doctor was alert and rational on the day of the shooting. Others testified that he was interested in buying a gun weeks before the crime and tried to hire someone to ransack his wife's belongings. And Sharpe himself admitted quickly disposing of the murder weapon and fleeing to New Hampshire, behavior prosecutor Weiner told jurors showed a guilty conscience.

After the verdict, Karen Sharpe's sister, Kathleen Lembo, now the guardian of her two minor children, Alexandra and Michael, stood on the courthouse steps and described her sister.

"Karen Sharpe was a loving mother, the best sister anybody could have. She was a wonderful daughter and a friend," said Lembo, who was surrounded by her brothers, father and husband. Referring to Richard Sharpe's claim that his wife cheated on him and was having an affair with a contractor at the time of her murder, Lembo added, "You got a sense of a lot of things that weren't Karen Sharpe in the courtroom, but [Weiner] and his people were able to convey to the jury that she was not that person."

She noted that her sister never told her nor their two brothers about Sharpe's abuse.

"She didn't share it with any of us because she didn't want us to feel her pain," said Lembo.

Karen Sharpe's survivors are expected to speak at the sentencing.


Cross-dressing millionaire doctor on trial for wife's murder

November 8, 2001

By Sam Handlin (Court TV)

Dr. Richard Sharpe was a millionaire. He was a cross-dresser, who prescribed himself hormones to alter his body. He stabbed his wife in the forehead with a fork. Then he killed her.

The details of the life of this wealthy dermatologist have been talked about in social circles around Boston since July 14, 2000, when Sharpe gunned down his wife with a hunting rifle just yards away while the couple's two small children slept nearby.

The doctor admitted he killed his wife but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Now a Massachusetts jury must decide whether Sharpe is crazy or just an odd guy with a bloodthirsty streak.

Sharpe is charged with first-degree murder and faces life in prison if convicted. The trial will be broadcast on Court TV.

Richard and Kathy Sharpe were teenage sweethearts who married just three months after graduating from Shelton High School in Connecticut and shortly after their daughter Shannon was born.

They shared a passion for medicine: While the former studied to be a doctor, the latter enrolled in nursing school.

In 1985, the couple moved up to Boston so that Sharpe could finish his studies at Harvard. After graduating, he went on to establish a successful dermatology practice, teach at Harvard Medical School, and form two small but profitable medical companies.

One of these ventures, a chain of hair removal clinics called LaseHair, would prove profitable enough to give the Sharpes a net worth of more than $2 million.

Karen never let on to her close friends that her relationship had problems, or that her husband was dangerous and unstable.

"You'd think, 'There they are again, the perfect family,'" a next door neighbor and good friend of Karen Sharpe told People magazine.

The couple's friends never heard about nights like April 26, 1991, when Sharpe returned home to find his wife with another man.

The doctor then became enraged when his wife asked him for a divorce. The next morning, according to Karen Sharpe, he stabbed her in the forehead with a fork.

Karen Sharpe fled the house, dragging their teenage daughter Shannon with her. After his wife reported the incident to police, Richard Sharpe was taken to an asylum, where he was diagnosed as suffering from "major depression, with features of anxiety and schizoid or other personality disorder."

But two days later, Sharpe's wife recanted her statements to police, allowing her husband to return home.

There were many more instances that those outside the family never heard about, according to court papers filed by Karen and Shannon Sharpe, now 27, during the divorce.

"He grabbed my neck and continually slammed my head against the wooden bed frame until I could no longer breathe," Shannon claimed, recalling an incident when she was only 10-years-old. "My next memory is my head hitting the stairs as he dragged me down the flight of stairs screaming and battering me."

According to divorce documents, disturbing behavior was the rule rather than the exception for the head of the household.

Karen said that her husband liked to cross-dress and used his LaseHair facilities to remove all his body hair. He also prescribed himself hormones and stole her birth control pills in an effort to make his breasts grow. Shannon added that on several occasions she discovered that her father had stolen her underwear for his own use.

Karen Sharpe spent the night of July 14, 2000, on a chartered boat in Boston Harbor, hanging out with friends.

Her husband had filed for divorce months beforehand and she had readily agreed. She had taken out a restraining order against him because of his erratic behavior and her suspicion that he had hired a private investigator to follow her.

That's why it was strange and chilling when he came to her door just before midnight shortly after she had returned home.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, according to police reports.

Her husband answered by stepping into the house's foyer and firing a single shot through her chest with a hunting rifle, while their two small children slept in an adjoining room and Karen's brother, his girlfriend and a babysitter looked on.

"Why did my father shoot my mother? Why did he do that? I never ever want to see my father again," cried 7-year-old Michael Sharpe in the aftermath, according to one witness.

Sharpe did not want to see the police, running away to New Hampshire only to be found in a dingy motel less than two days after the shooting. After his arrest, his eldest daughter made her stance on the incident clear.

"It should be clear that I have no doubt in my mind that my father's actions are unforgivable," said Shannon Sharpe to The Associated Press.

Shannon and the two other Sharpe children, ages 6 and 8, have sued their father for $100 million. And the family's babysitter has brought a $5 million dollar civil action against him, citing the trauma of witnessing the murder.

The anger that his family feels toward him may not have registered fully with Sharpe. In a letter that written to his daughter last Valentine's Day, he said, "Dear Shannon, I loved your mother. I miss her terribly. I cry every day. I want nothing but the best for you, Mike, and Ali. The only thing that gets me through each day is the thought that my children may need me."

Because Sharpe pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, the facts of the crime will not be disputed at trial. But prosecutor Robert Weiner must convince the jury that despite Sharpe's oddities and instabilities, he was sane when he killed his wife.

The prosecution will likely call the eyewitnesses to the murder, as well as Shannon Sharpe to testify about her parents' tumultuous relationship.

But the most important testimony will be from psychiatrists and other experts, whom the prosecution will use to convince the jury that Sharpe was lucid and could discern right from wrong when he shot his wife.

While it is unlikely that Judge Christine McEvoy would allow such testimony, the prosecution may try to somehow introduce evidence that Sharpe recently offered a fellow inmate a million dollars to help him escape.

Sharpe's defense team will likely try to downplay some of the more sensational accusations about Sharpe's personal life but also show that he was insane and not accountable for his actions.

"He wasn't a cross-dresser in the sense that he had an alternative life style," says lawyer Joseph Balliro.

Balliro would not discuss trial strategy but said that the defense would call at least one expert witness to testify to Sharpe's insanity.



The Sharpes' Marriage
(according to court documents)

Teen sweethearts Richard and Karen Sharpe get married three months after graduating from Shelton High School in Connecticut, and shortly after, their daughter Shannon is born.


Richard imprisons Karen in their home for 48 hours straight and abuses her, according to an affidavit she filed during divorce proceedings. "He accompanied me to the hospital and while I was being treated, he whispered in my ear, 'I want you to die,'" she claimed in court documents filed in their divorce proceeding.

Early 1980s

According to Karen, Richard gets drunk one New Year's Eve and beats her while they are driving home. "We stopped at a hotel, but we were denied occupancy because I was covered in a result of this incident, I suffered from a broken nose, a concussion, two black eyes and a split lip," she said.


According to an affidavit from Shannon Sharpe, she becomes a victim of her father's physical abuse at the age of 10. "He grabbed my neck and continually slammed my head against the wooden bed frame until I could no longer breathe. My next memory is my head hitting the stairs as he dragged me down the flight of stairs screaming and battering me," she wrote.


The family moves to Boston, where Richard finishes his studies at Harvard Medical School.

April 26, 1991

Richard comes home and finds his wife with another man. The next morning, he stabs her in the forehead with a fork. After Karen reports the incident to police, Richard is institutionalized and diagnosed with "major depression, with features of anxiety and schizoid or other personality disorder."

Early 1990s

Richard's abusive behavior becomes more bizarre, according to his wife. "My husband and I went out to dinner with my family and he drank to excess. When we arrived home with my family, my husband became belligerent, began parading around the house naked, and punched my brother, Jamie," she claimed.


Richard founds a company called ClickMed that he will later turn into LaseHair, the hair removal concern that makes him millions.


Karen coordinates a high school reunion for the couple's classmates. Richard becomes drunk and throws a cocktail at the disk jockey.

February 2000

Karen Sharpe leaves her husband, fearing for her safety. She takes the couple's two small children, 7-year-old Michael and 5-year-old Alexandra, with her. Shortly thereafter, she obtains a restraining order against Richard.

July 14, 2000

Richard shoots Karen in the foyer of her Wenham home.

Winter 2000

At an unknown time, Sharpe starts hatching a plan to escape from jail, according to a fellow inmate he attempted to bribe and enlist. Needing help on the outside, the doctor allegedly asked the career criminal to contact associates "that would kill police if necessary."



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