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Neighbors, friends react to death of woman

June 15, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS and DANIELLE CINTRON

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Tina Stride fought back tears Monday afternoon as she stared across the street at the Martinsburg home where her neighbor, 35-year-old Katherine Nicole Sharp, was found dead at the end of a 26-hour hostage situation.

A decorative flag that said "America" waved gently on the side of the one-story house with white siding, blue shutters and a basket of bright red flowers hanging on the porch.

The yard was wrapped in yellow police tape, and West Virginia State Police troopers watched as a machine hummed in the doorway, apparently pumping out the gas released inside earlier by Special Operations Team members. Every window in the house was broken.

Stride, 39, pointed to a star on the side of the house.

"I remember when she hung that star on the side of her house," she said shakily. "She had just moved in, and she yelled over, 'Is it straight?'"

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Stride described Sharp as a kind neighbor and hardworking mother.

"She loved her flowers," she said.

Stride said she wasn't sure how long Sharp dated Donald Berkeley Surber, 37, of Winchester, Va., the man arrested at the house Monday afternoon and charged with kidnapping Sharpe.

Tammy Cogle of Martinsburg, a family friend who said she had known Sharp almost 20 years, said she thought the relationship between Sharp and Surber had been short, lasting only a few months, and that they had recently broken up.

Cogle, whose brother dates Sharp's mother, said Sharp was a single mother who worked at a dentist's office and did her best to provide a good life for her two children, a teenage girl and a young boy.

"She was a sweet, good girl," Cogle said.

Cogle said she was disappointed with the way police handled the hostage situation.

"Why did they wait so long?" she said, "Why did they not take some action?"

Other neighbors echoed Cogle's thoughts.

"I think it went on too long," said Frank Stanley, 69, who watched the situation unfold from his home on Reliance Road. "I think if they went in there to start with, it might not have come out this way."

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

Stanley and his family said their subdivision of well-kept, single-family homes had always been a "nice, quiet neighborhood."

Neighbors said their hearts broke for Sharp's family, particularly her two children.

"I can't believe this happened," Stride said. "I'm going to miss her."

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