Crime & Courts

Wasilla man pleads guilty to manslaughter in toddler’s 2014 death

Jyzyk Sharpe

PALMER -- It was 2014 when Wasilla resident Jyzyk Sharpe was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of a 1-year-old boy in his care, his girlfriend’s son.

On Monday, in a deal reached just as his long-delayed trial got underway, Sharpe entered a guilty plea to a charge of manslaughter in exchange for a 10-year prison sentence to be set in late January. The 49-year-old was led out in handcuffs as soon as the hearing ended after spending eight years out of custody.

Police in March 2014 arrived at a Wasilla home where CPR was being performed on a child identified as Ezekiel Dockery, who was not breathing and did not have a pulse when medics arrived, according to prior descriptions of a sworn affidavit filed with charges.

Sharpe, along with the boy’s 4-year-old twin sisters, told investigators the child fell while they were bathing, according to the affidavit. Sharpe was caring for three of his girlfriend’s children while she worked in Anchorage. Investigators said they found what Sharpe’s girlfriend later told them was her cocaine in the home.

An autopsy conducted by the State Medical Examiner’s Office revealed the boy suffered bruises around his head and back area, lacerations to his lips, a fractured spine, bruised lungs and a torn aorta that had caused hemorrhaging, according to prior reports.

Sharpe’s attorneys say the blunt force trauma the child suffered was the result of CPR. Sharpe performed the procedure after calling 911, his attorney Windy Hannaman said in an interview Monday after the hearing. At one point, he told dispatchers he heard what sounded like an injury occur.

Had the trial proceeded, Hannaman said, a pediatric intensivist was prepared to testify the injuries were “consistent with aggressive CPR.”

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But prosecutors say Sharpe beat the child to death.

“The state’s position is that it was a beating upstairs in the bathroom,” assistant district attorney Krista Anderson said during Monday’s hearing.

The autopsy supported that contention, Anderson said, citing bruising on the boy’s upper back and other evidence.

Sharpe, who bailed out of jail in 2015, spent the past eight years living with his aunt in Anchorage as the case wound through the system, delayed first by court appeals and then restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sharpe passed a polygraph test that a Palmer Superior Court judge admitted into evidence, Hannaman said. The judge’s decision survived initial appeal but was eventually overturned by the Alaska Supreme Court. Then the pandemic canceled in-person hearings and bogged down the court system.

Sharpe’s decision to agree to the plea deal last week was prompted by the possibility he could receive a 20-year sentence if convicted, his attorney said.

The decision came after jury selection and as opening arguments in the trial were scheduled to begin, according to Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller, a retired Anchorage judge presiding over the case.

The second-degree murder charge will be dismissed, Miller said, and he expects to approve the plea agreement and the sentence: 20 years, with 10 suspended and 10 to serve, along with no-contact orders for numerous family members.

“I will hear from the family at the next hearing but that will be my intention,” he said.

Monday’s change of plea hearing, in a Palmer courtroom, was delayed until this week to give relatives a chance to come from out of state.

It was attended by Sharpe’s aunt and more than a dozen family members of the child, many in person and several by phone including the boy’s mother and biological father, who is from Oklahoma. Among the relatives who came to court Monday were the boy’s twin sisters, who are teenagers now.

Zaz Hollander

Longtime ADN reporter Zaz Hollander is based in the Mat-Su and is currently focused on coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska. She also covers the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at zhollander@adn.com.

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