Monday, August 26, 2002

Community weeps for young stabbing victims

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WARSAW, Ky. - August has been a cruel month for this quiet, tightly knit city of 1,800 people on the Ohio River.

        First, a Warsaw police officer escaped serious injury Aug. 4 during a shootout at Gallatin County Park with a suspect who later died of gunshot wounds.

        Then one of the city's families was attacked early Friday, police say, by a man many now call a monster, but who neighbors say fooled them into thinking he was a model citizen.

        Carolyn Marksberry, 37, who had counseled a friend to get out of an abusive relationship, was stabbed 15 times, allegedly by the friend's jilted boyfriend. Police say the man broke into her house, killed two of her children - Cody Sharon, 6, and Chelbi Sharon, 7 - and left a third, Courtney Sharon, 10, presumed dead.

        “It's been really crazy here the last month,” Warsaw Police Chief Donnie Gould said from his cruiser Sunday. “It's terrible... We don't know what's going to happen next.”

        Marco Allen Chapman, 30, who lived in an unincorporated portion of Boone County, is being held at a jail in Charleston, W. Va., pending an extradition hearing within the next 10 days. He faces two counts of murder, two counts of first-degree assault and one count of burglary.

        The surviving child, Courtney, briefly saw Bible school classmates Sunday at Warsaw Baptist Church, then was whisked away by a detective and her grandfather. By pretending she was dead during the attack, Courtney was able to escape and get help from a neighbor, relatives said.

        Kentucky State Police interviewed Courtney again Sunday, then relatives took her to see her mother, who was upgraded to fair condition at University Hospital.

        “This is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my whole life,” the Rev. Timothy Estes morosely told his congregation Sunday at the start of a special service for the family at Warsaw Baptist Church. “And there is only one reason I can do it, because of a little girl by the name of Courtney, the bravest girl I know. I think the question most of us are asking is "How could God have let something like this happen?”'

        “Those beautiful, precious, innocent children. What did they ever do to deserve that? Nothing,” he said. A presentation of photos from the children's ministry showed the Sharon children at various past church gatherings, dressed in costumes of angels and sheep, laughing, making faces, their arms wrapped around their friends or sitting on the pastor's lap.

        The children and their mother had just been at the church Wednesday night for a rehearsal of the now postponed Sept. 8 children's ministry musical.

        Courtney was cast in the lead role, Gabriel, an angel who helps lead the other children to heaven. Cody and Chelbi had been cast in smaller roles in the production.

        Chad Adams, 19, who used to baby-sit the children, said “I'm glad they got to know who I was and I got to be a part of their life. I kind of got them to start coming to church here. They felt welcome here.”

        Lucille Leek, who lived next door to the family before they moved to their Weldon Way home, brought the children to Sunday school every week.

        “They were just so sweet,” she said. “You couldn't help but love them.”

        The children's great-grandmother, Mayme Walters, said Courtney had trouble sleeping at her father's house Saturday night and kept waking up, as if she were reliving the attack.

        “She just wakes up and says, "Mommy, he's going to hit me again,”' Mrs. Walters said from her Warsaw home. “She won't go back to the house.”

        At the family's one-story, white-frame house with black shutters on a cul-de-sac, four white roses and a bouquet of carnations were placed on the front door step.

        From those steps, Mrs. Marksberry made the frantic run across the street early Friday to neighbor Mike Schlachta's home. She was lying between his screen door and front door when he answered the door, he said, and that's when he saw a piece of duct tape wrapped halfway around one of her wrists.

        “She kept saying the monster's name and, "My children, my children,”' Mr. Schlachta recalled Sunday.

        Some people attended an afternoon counseling session Sunday at Gallatin County Elementary School, where Cody was in the first grade and Chelbi was in the third grade. Courtney is a fifth grader at neighboring Gallatin County Upper Elementary School.

        The session brought out feelings of anger and denial, school officials said, and drew at least 20 people, including Chief Gould, Mrs. Marksberry's brother, Bill Hedges, and other relatives. Dot Perkins, superintendent of the 730-student district, said when classes resumed today a crisis response team would be available for teachers and students.

Previous stories:
Sunday: Child saw stabbings, fled house
Saturday: Mother, children stabbed, 2 fatally

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