Waiting to Inhale

Luis Sharpe led a double life. In public, he was an admired NFL star. In private, he was a crackhead hell-bent on self-destruction.

"He said, 'The man in the house is back,'" Julie stated in the affidavit. Kathi ran out the front door to call police, leaving Julie to deal with Sharpe.

"He told me that if he had caught Kathi he would have killed her," Julie avowed. "He was very much under the influence of drugs. All of the children were crying. He was sweating, his face was moving and twitching, his eyes were dilated, and he had a terrible look on his face."

Sharpe expresses surprise at Julie's statement, which he says he's never seen.

"I'm sure I scared the shit out of them because they didn't expect me there," he says. "But after Thanksgiving, I made the decision to see my kids . . . I was stressed. I was yelling, 'She's a whore, a slut,' speaking my piece. It was the holidays again and they are my kids, too, and she wasn't being fair. I was obsessed, but I don't remember threatening Kathi at all."

Obvious parallels with another, more prominent NFL star--O.J. Simpson--come to mind.

"I really feel like if Juice was going through what I was going through--the feelings of abandonment and betrayal, the pain--and if he had turned to drugs, I can see him sitting up one night and being under the influence and losing it. I think he loved that woman and I think he probably killed her. If I hadn't completely numbed some feelings I was going through at the time, I could almost put myself in O.J.'s place."

Phoenix police arrested Sharpe for allegedly violating the order of protection, then rearrested him for supposedly threatening Kathi in a call from jail.

Her attorney, Don Lindholm, says he asked a judge to keep Sharpe in jail "for his own good as well as for my client's." But the judge again released Sharpe in short order.

A few days later, Sharpe almost died.
He adamantly denies having a death wish, but his own account of being shot outside a crackhouse at 26th Street and East Pueblo raises troubling questions.

"I had $1,500 in my pocket and I was flashing it like a fool," Sharpe says of the midmorning incident last November 30. "A guy comes up to me. 'This is a jack. Put your money down or I blow your brains out. I was stupid enough to say, 'You'll have to shoot me first.'

"It was a neighborhood--people out on their porches, kids riding by on bicycles. I'm thinking, 'This guy isn't going to shoot you just like that.' He fires as I'm sort of turning to the side. Hits me in the right shoulder. Another few centimeters and they say . . . I would have bled to death.

"I throw my wallet down. He picks up the money. For some reason, I start walking toward him. The blood's coming down my arm. He says, 'Motherfucker. One more step and I blow you away.' I stop. He runs off somewhere. They never caught him. I walk a block. Where was I going? I remember laying down by a phone, completely exhausted. I wanted to take a nice, long nap. For some reason, I felt peaceful."

Into this surreal tableau walked an unlikely good Samaritan.
"This lady I knew--a crackhead named Diane--she ran and got a cold towel and put it on my head. 'Don't go to sleep, don't go to sleep,' she kept saying. 'Talk to me.' She stayed with me until the paramedics came."

Sharpe got to thank Diane a few months later.
"I went back there to get more drugs, man," he says. "Drug addicts do stupid things to get drugs. You put everything else to the side."

The image of this once-proud man bloodied and crumpled next to a pay phone was riveting. Sharpe's family in Michigan responded immediately when they got word.

At the family's request, a court commissioner ordered Luis Sharpe's involuntary commitment to a county mental hospital. After doctors deemed him a potential threat to himself or to others, the commissioner offered two alternatives: continued commitment at the county hospital, or up to a year's rehab at a private facility.

Last December 11, Sharpe enrolled at the Chandler Valley Hope rehabilitation center. Two days later, the facility discharged him after he tested positive for fresh use of cocaine.

Sharpe fled to Detroit, missing his December 15 arraignment date on his pending Maricopa County criminal charges. Judge Michael Ryan issued a warrant for his arrest.

Detroit police arrested Sharpe on the Arizona warrant a few days before Christmas. Sharpe's defense attorney in Arizona was Marc Budoff, a fine litigator in a tough spot. His client was a walking disaster, too stoned to care about court dates.

Budoff told Judge Ryan that Sharpe had agreed to undergo inpatient treatment at the Detroit-area Brighton Hospital, followed by weeks of outpatient rehab.

Lou Stalzer, the veteran deputy county attorney prosecuting Sharpe, agreed not to play hardball.

Ryan, a former prosecutor known as a firm, but fair jurist, quashed the warrant.

Early in Sharpe's stay at Brighton, a hospital therapist wrote a letter to Kathi Sharpe's divorce attorney, suggesting that Sharpe's three oldest children join him for a few days.

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