Surber gets two life sentences without parole in fatal stabbing

August 02, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • Donald B. Surber

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Donald B. Surber Jr. was sentenced Monday to serve two life sentences in prison without the opportunity for parole in connection with the kidnapping and fatal stabbing of his ex-girlfriend, Katherine Nicole Sharp, in June 2009.

Surber, 38, of Winchester, Va., also was ordered by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes to serve a three- to 15-year term for attempted kidnapping, one to 15 years for burglary, one to 10 years for destruction of property, six months for domestic assault and five years for attempted escape.

Two charges -- attempting to disarm a regional jail officer and attempt to possess a weapon by inmate of jail -- that stemmed from Surber's attempt to escape while being treated at City Hospital in Martinsburg were dismissed at the state's request.

Wilkes also ordered Surber to pay about $45,000 in restitution for burial expenses and repairs to Sharp's home.


Surber killed Sharp the evening of June 14, 2009, at her home at 10 Raider Lane in the Ridgefield subdivision off W.Va. 9 west of Martinsburg, police have said. Sharp's daughter managed to escape through a bedroom window.

A standoff with police, which spanned more than 24 hours, ended the afternoon of June 15.

The West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined Sharp's cause of death to be multiple stab wounds.

In asking the court to order Surber to serve the maximum sentence, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Jean Games-Neely said the medical examiner told her that the homicide case was "one of the most horrific, violent crimes" the death investigator had ever handled.

Games-Neely said the circumstances of Sharp's death were particularly troubling because Surber, while holding her hostage, subjected friends and family to phone calls in which they heard Sharp suffering and begging for her life.

Paula Roll, one of several friends and family members who attended the sentencing hearing, said she still was haunted by the memory of Sharp trying to breathe over the phone.

"My heart still aches. I miss her big smile and soft-spoken voice," Roll said in a tearful statement to the court.

Roll, who said Sharp was like a sister to her and treated co-workers like family, loved the outdoors, her flower garden, shopping, mocha latts and yard sales.

"She loved making other people happy and she was really good at it," Roll said.

In a tearful statement to the court, Sharp's daughter, Tori, 15, said she and her mother didn't always have the best relationship, but she told Surber from the witness stand that he took her best friend.

"You've never cared about anyone but yourself," Tori said.

Sharp's daughter said she has been at a loss for words about her mother's death and can't talk to anyone about what she is going through. She also said she worries about her younger brother, who is now 8 years old and was even closer to their mother.

"My mother not only loved me, but so many others unconditionally," Tori said.

Tori's grandmother, Reba Weller, told Surber that he was a dangerous and devious person, "but definitely not a man."

"You are a murderer, nothing more, nothing less," said Weller, who carried a framed photograph of Sharp with her to the witness stand to give her statement.

Jesse Rogers, Sharp's brother-in-law, recalled having to go to Sharp's home to clean her blood off the walls and furniture to make it presentable for a vigil.

"How do you prepare to bury a woman (who had) so much to live for?" Rogers said.

Julie Woods, the fiancee of Sharp's brother, Jeremy Madison, read a statement on his behalf because he was unable to speak. She also brought a photograph of the victim with her to court.

"Kathy was the greatest. She was my best friend ... If I did wrong, she told me. If I did right, she told me that, too," Woods said.

Surber, in a statement to the court, said what he did to Sharp was "senseless" and it shouldn't have happened.

Surber apologized individually to Sharp's children and other members of the victim's family, as well as to his father and his children.

"I know a lot of people want to see me burn in hell," Surber said.

Surber, who became tearful during his remarks, said he didn't want to make excuses or blame anyone for what he did and didn't ask the court for mercy.

"I could have walked out of that house any time and I chose not to," Surber said.

After the hearing, Games-Neely and family members said they were "very grateful" for Wilkes' decision to sentence Surber to consecutive sentences without eligibility for parole.

Until Wilkes announced that Surber would receive the maximum sentence, Weller said they were "scared" of the possibility that he would somehow get less than the maximum sentence.

Regarding Surber's emotions Monday, Games-Neely said she believes the defendant was somewhat remorseful for the impact his actions had on his and Sharp's children, but otherwise was "very capable of acting."

"He hates his circumstances right now. I think that's part of his tears," Games-Neely said.

Surber's children, who attended the hearing at their father's request, have had a difficult time with the situation.

"And I think he wanted them to hear his apology," Games-Neely said.

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