Virginia Man Makes Heartfelt Apology, Receives 25 Years

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BERRYVILLE, Va. –  On Thursday afternoon, 26-year-old Tony Sharpe, of Farmville, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder of Berryville Councilwoman Gail Smith in July 2009.

“Today is kind of a bittersweet day,” said Clarke County Commonwealth’s Attorney Suni Mackall who prosecuted the case. “It’s the last of the three suspects who committed this terrible crime in our community.”

After an investigation that spanned over four years, the Commonwealth was able to prove Tim Smith hired Sharpe to kill his sister, Gail. Another sibling, Deborah Smith, was also sentenced on perjury and obstruction charges after the state dropped other charges against her.

The siblings believed Gail would be the sole inheritor to their ailing father’s $750,000 estate, and were motivated by money, according to the Commonwealth.

Last week, both of the remaining Smith siblings were sentenced for their part in the murder scheme.

Tim Smith was sentenced to serve 23 years, while his sister Deborah, was sentenced to serve eight years in prison.

Both received the maximum sentencing per their plea agreements.

Prosecutors say the final sentencing of the siblings’ hired hit man, Sharpe, is bittersweet because they believe he is also a victim.

 “[Sharpe] was completely exploited and manipulated by people that were more sophisticated than he was,” Mackall said.

People like – according to the Commonwealth – Tim and Deborah Smith.

“[Sharpe] was desperate for money, he had children on the way he wanted to support, and he needed a parental role figure,” Mackall said, explaining his motive. “Mr. Sharpe fell into the spell of Tim Smith, who in an effort to fulfill that parental roll, convinced him to murder [Gail] so [Smith] could get lots of money.”

Sharpe’s defense attorneys, Joseph Flood and Jonathan Sheldon, said their client wouldn’t be in prison today if it weren’t for his difficult and depraved upbringing.

“That, combined with the unfortunate meeting of Tim Smith is why we’re here now,” said Flood. “Nevertheless, Mr. Sharpe takes full responsibility for what he has done.”

Court records show that Sharpe once had a scholarship to go to college, thanks to money he “received in middle school [from] the parents of a boy who was killed in a drive-by shooting.” The documents state Sharpe was given the monetary award, along with several other boys, all of whom were identified as “potentially going down the wrong path.”

“His story is so sad,” Mackall said, pointing to a psychiatric evaluation Sharpe had when he was 15 years old, which was included in his sentencing memorandum.

According to the report, Sharpe was required to have a psych evaluation after he was involved in a fight nine days after attending St. Gabriel’s Hall, an all-boys Christian school in Pennsylvania.

“The psychiatrist asks him for three wishes. He wishes for his brother to feel better, because he had a severe enzyme disorder that made it hard for him to eat, he wishes for “the terrorists to stop,” and finally, he wishes for his parents to get back together.

Sharpe made a heartfelt apology to the court prior to his sentencing, apologizing “to the community and family members for the destruction [his] actions had caused.”

Sharpe received the minimum sentencing per his plea agreement. Both defense and prosecution stated that without Sharpe’s cooperation, the Smith siblings would have never been brought to justice.

While the criminal side of Gail Smith’s murder is over, the Commonwealth will now turn their attention toward the distribution of the $750,000 Smith estate. The civil case has been continued to June 17.


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that the Commonwealth proved that both Tim and Deborah Smith hired Tony Sharpe to kill Gail Smith, which is not true. Deborah Smith was sentenced on perjury and obstruction charges. Other charges against her were dropped.

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