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Virginia man charged with kidnapping

June 15, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS and DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The pain and grief were palpable as West Virginia State Police informed friends and family members that Katherine Nicole Sharp, 35, was found dead in her house on Raider Lane near Martinsburg at the end of a 26-hour standoff between her ex-boyfriend and police.

Sharpe's ex-boyfriend, Donald Berkeley Surber, 37, of Winchester, Va., was taken into custody at about 2:02 p.m. by members of the West Virginia State Police Special Response Team, West Virginia State Police Capt. Rob Blair said.

Surber was charged Monday evening with kidnapping and was being held without bond at Eastern Regional Jail, a jail spokesman said.

Blair would not say when or how Sharp died. He said her body would be taken to Charleston, W.Va., for an autopsy.

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"We wanted this to be a safe operation where everyone came out alive, and unfortunately that didn't happen," Blair said.

Police said Surber took Sharp hostage Sunday morning at her house at 10 Raider Lane in the Ridgefield Subdivision off W.Va. 9 just west of Interstate 81.

Sharp's daughter escaped from the home and called 911 at about 11:46 a.m. Sunday, police said. Her daughter told police Sharp's ex-boyfriend was inside with a firearm, police said.

The situation quickly escalated into a hostage situation, Blair said. Police made contact with Surber, called in several Special Response Teams from throughout the state, and evacuated nearby homes for safety reasons, he said.

As the standoff continued through Sunday night and into Monday, police lost contact with Surber, but they re-established telephone contact shortly before 11:30 a.m. Monday, Lt. Lisa Lambert said. They had not talked to Sharpe since shortly after the situation began on Sunday, she said.

Just before noon, a helicopter flew into the neighborhood, landed at the intersection of Reliance and Strada roads, and several SWAT team members got out, said Lindsay Barnhart, who could see the scene from her home on Reliance Road.

The SWAT team members got into a van, left the area, then returned, Barnhart said.

"Then they just started to circle the house," Barnhart said.

Barnhart said she heard a loud "pop, pop" sound as officers fired something toward the house. A lot of smoke began forming and glass was breaking, Barnhart said.

Blair said police lobbed some type of gas into the house.

At about 1:51 p.m., a series of loud sounds, like those caused by flash-bang devices, were heard, according to people on the scene.

Afterward, officers went into the house, some through a window, according to Barnhart, the daughter-in-law of Herald-Mail reporter Marlo Barnhart.

Barnhart said police used a bullhorn to talk to Surber and made comments to him like "just throw the guns out" and "what would your son say?"

A man came out of the house several times and at one point stood on a walkway outside the home for several minutes, Barnhart said.

Just before 2:30 p.m., a long, painful scream rang out from a group of Sharp's family and friends who had gathered in a parking lot near the entrance to her neighborhood. Police signaled for news crews to turn off their cameras as family members embraced each other and some sank to the ground.

The scene was heart-wrenching, said Barbara Bradley, who was picking up a printing job from the copy shop where the family was assembled when police broke the news to them.

"There was just a lot of crying and (they were), as anybody would be, extremely upset and just overwrought with grief," Bradley said. "I mean the grief was just palpable in the air, it really was."

By about 3 p.m., police began letting evacuated residents back into the neighborhood.

The West Virginia State Police Crime Scene Team was working to process the scene Monday evening, Blair said.

Police were conducting numerous interviews as the investigation into Sharp's death continued, he said.

Blair said police were seeking information about Surber's relationship with Sharp and the motives that led to the situation.

"Sometimes you don't have an answer for why someone does something like this," he said.

The man lives in the neighborhood and had an on-again, off-again relationship with a woman in the house, Barnhart said.

Barnhart said it was strange watching the situation unfold.

"It's all so unreal. It just happened a little (at a time) over a long period of time," she said. "It's scary. You wouldn't think it would happen here, not down the road from us."

Blair said West Virginia State Police thanked the many agencies that assisted with the investigation, as well as community members and businesses that offered their support.

The Hagerstown Police Department, and Berkeley County, W.Va., and Washington County sheriff's departments assisted with the investigation, and the Hedgesville (W.Va.) Fire Department and the Berkeley County Sheriff's Reserves also assisted with support and manpower, Blair said.

The American Red Cross set up a temporary shelter for displaced residents at Hedgesville High School, he said. Several businesses also donated food and water for those responding to the situation, he said.

Staff writers Danielle Cintron and Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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