20-year-old Anchorage man charged with murder in February shooting

Casey Grove
William Sharp appears in court for a pre-indictment hearing at the Nesbett Courthouse on Thursday, March 14, 2013.
Bob Hallinen

A former Anchorage high school football star is charged with murder in the shooting of his Fairview neighbor in the early morning hours of Feb. 18.

Homicide detectives on Thursday announced they had charged William Stewart Sharp, 20, with murder for killing his neighbor, Purdy Alston, 26.

In a written statement, a police spokeswoman said Sharp knocked on the door to Alston's apartment in the early morning hours of Feb. 18, asked Alston to come outside, then shot Alston multiple times. Police and medics rushed to the apartment, at 1029 E. 20th Ave., about 1:20 a.m. and found Alston bleeding in the living room, according to a charging document. Alston was pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.

A quick conversation about marijuana preceded the fatal shooting, according to police and the charges.

Officers arrested Sharp on Tuesday. He is a former standout wide receiver for West High School who made the first-team All State squad in 2010, his coach said.

According to the charging document, provided by a police spokeswoman Thursday, here is how detectives tracked down the alleged killer:

Just after the fatal shooting, Alston's girlfriend told an officer another person in the apartment had answered the door and let in a man with dreadlocks or braids. The girlfriend told police Alston was in the bathroom, and the man immediately went to the bathroom door and told Alston to come out and talk. Alston emerged and went outside the apartment with the man. The woman soon heard three gunshots and yelling. She said Alston collapsed back inside the apartment.

About two weeks later, a detective spoke with a person who said he had overheard a conversation about the shooting. The man, who is not named in the charging document, said he heard Sharp's roommate tell another person that Sharp killed Alston.

The detective learned Sharp lived in the 1000 block of East E. 20th Ave. Sharp's apartment and the one in which Alston was found are in parallel buildings, separated by an open space, at the north end of the Chester Park Estates complex.

The detective got Sharp's most-recent driver's license photo from 2012, in which his hair was pulled back into a ponytail. An older photo, from 2010, showed Sharp in dreadlocks with white beads on the ends. The detective altered the photo to remove the beads, "as they were too distinctive," the charges say.

Alston's girlfriend picked Sharp's photo out of a photo lineup of possible suspects. She gauged her certainty at "8 out of 10," the charges say, because she had only seen Sharp from the side. She said she had seen Sharp in Alston's apartment before, but she did not know his name.

Another detective interviewed a second witness, a juvenile, according to police. The boy said a man he knew as "Will" had come to the apartment to talk to Alston, and that the two men had a brief conversation about "weed" before going outside, the charges say. The boy said he heard four gunshots, then saw Alston come back inside bleeding.

Police arrested Sharp without incident Tuesday night at Anchorage Police Department headquarters, police spokeswoman Dani Myren said. He had come in for another matter -- Myren did not say why -- and police had an arrest warrant charging him with first-degree murder.

At a court hearing Thursday, a woman who said she was Sharp's mother said Sharp had been wrongfully accused. After talking to a lawyer, she declined to comment further. Sharp had pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing, and he appeared in court Thursday with short hair, not dreadlocks. His bail was set at $300,000.

Sharp's former coach, Tim Davis, described Sharp as a hard worker on the football field who struggled academically.

"He was a phenomenal player. It would've been nice to see him get the stuff right in the books, like we encourage, and get out of here," Davis said. "We're in America, and it's innocent until proven guilty. I'd love to think he's innocent, and I'm going to be praying along those lines."

Davis expressed his condolences to Alston's family and said Sharp's former teammates were reeling from the news.

"We really like to think that we train young men for the real world, so this is a huge blow. It's devastating," Davis said.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.