A Ferry County sheriff’s deputy remains on paid leave, a month after Sheriff Pete Warner bowed to public pressure for an investigation into Detective Carroll Sharp Jr.’s associations with teenage boys.
Warner asked the Washington State Patrol to conduct a new investigation because a WSP investigation in early 2003 failed to satisfy some people’s concerns that Sharp may have acted improperly with two boys who lived in his Republic-area home, as well as others he befriended.
The 2003 investigation concluded there was no basis to charge Sharp with a crime.
Sharp branded the concerns – raised by a group of social workers, educators and law enforcement personnel – as “character assassination” by people with whom he has had conflicts. He said he is the victim of a “witch hunt” focusing on the fact that he is a 36-year-old bachelor.
Sharp gained regional attention last year when he shot to death a 35-year-old man who was beating a social worker with a machete. Authorities ruled the shooting justified. They credited Sharp with saving the life of state Division of Child and Family Services worker Edith Vance.
Before the State Patrol could start a new investigation into Sharp’s relationship with teenage boys, the FBI assumed jurisdiction early last month. An FBI spokeswoman has declined to release any information or even confirm the agency is investigating Sharp.
Warner said FBI agents haven’t told him anything, either, but “they have come and gone. They have been up here and interviewed a number of people.”
The sheriff said he plans to keep Sharp on paid leave “until I have a report from the FBI,” although his department is severely strained with only five commissioned officers left on duty.
If the FBI finds no evidence to charge Sharp criminally, Warner said he will order an internal affairs investigation to determine whether Sharp violated any departmental policies. The investigation would be conducted by the county’s insurance company, Canfield & Associates of Ephrata, Wash., Warner said.
Internal affairs investigations, in which law enforcement officers can be compelled to answer questions, must wait until criminal investigations are completed. Otherwise, the criminal investigations might be compromised by constitutionally impermissible evidence.
The 2003 WSP investigation revealed that a troubled 15-year-old who had moved into Sharp’s home – a 33-foot travel trailer at that time – claimed Sharp touched him improperly during informal wrestling sessions. But even the boy’s friends said they didn’t believe him, and detectives concluded he wasn’t a credible witness.
However, Sharp confirmed to the WSP that he gave beer to the 15-year-old boy who accused him, and that he had the 15-year-old and a 13-year-old boy sleep in his bed on several occasions in late 2002. All of them agreed there was no sexual overture or contact in the bed.
The 13-year-old and a 14-year-old boy were frequent weekend guests in Sharp’s home.
Sharp invited one of four boys questioned by the WSP to move in with him shortly after the investigation ended. That boy, now 17, is still living with Sharp. The boy’s mother described Sharp as a friend of the family who has helped her son turn his life around after an assault conviction last summer.
Warner said in late February that he had warned Sharp to “curtail his activities with juveniles even though he thought he was helping them.” But Warner added that he had been reluctant to interfere in relationships sanctioned by a parent and, in two cases, having been reviewed by juvenile court officials.
“Yeah, it’s troubling – even to the staff here,” Warner said. “But how far can I go to regulate his private life?”
The sheriff said his department has only a “kind of vague” requirement for deputies to keep their private lives unsullied, but he plans to adopt a more specific policy.
“I’m certainly not going to reinvent the wheel,” Warner said. “I’m going to plagiarize from other, model policies.”