Sentencing Hearing Concludes In Murder Of UAFS Student

FORT SMITH  (KFSM ) -- Sebastian County Judge Stephen Tabor took to his chambers on Tuesday (Oct. 3) to begin a three week sentencing deliberation in the slaying of 22-year-old UAFS student Kaleb Watson.

The sentencing hearing began on Monday (Oct. 2) for Shakur Sharp. Sharp pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of Watson two weeks prior. A jury trial had been originally slated.

Sharp was 16 at the time of Watson's murder. He turned 18 in February 2017.

Two accomplices implicated in the crime, James Sharp J.R. and Dionte Parks have both appealed Judge Tabor's denial of a juvenile transfer.

During the sentencing hearing, Sharp took the stand and described the events that transpired on Jan. 23, 2016, the day Watson was tied up and shot several times.

Sharp told the court that the group was outside of Watson's apartment watching him before entering. Sharp said he did think Watson would try to defend himself against the robbery. He said he thought the group would go into the apartment, take some belongings from Watson and leave.

"I accept full responsibility for the tragedy that happened," Sharp said.

Sharp detailed how he had a gun in his hand and struggled with Watson.

"If he got the gun, I was going to die," Sharp said.

He also told the court how he commanded James Sharp to tie Watson up with a shoe string.

Attorney's for Watson's family asked Sharp what he did the day after the murder.

"The night I killed Kaleb, I was high on marijuana," Sharp told the attorney's. He also told them that he went to church with his grandmother the next day to ask for forgiveness.

Judge Stephen Tabor spoke to Sharp before adjourning. He told Sharp that the Watson's family has offered forgiveness and told Sharp that he hopes 'he accepts it'.

Tabor said he will take into account Arkansas sentencing guidelines, evidence, and sentencing for similar cases before he returns his prison sentencing decision on Oct. 23.

"We have to look at how this child was brought up from 0 to 16 yearsold. When you hear his story it's a very compelling story. Like I told the judge, that's not an excuse for what happened," said Sharp's attorney, Leo Monterrey. "He's been facing these facts from day one. He's admitted to his wrongs. He knows he's going to do his time, but as a society we need to give him a second chance. How do we know? How do we rehabilitate this young man? The judge will make a decision on how many years it will take for him to be rehabilitated to bring him back to society. We don't want to institutionalize him and keep him there for 28 years and say 'Good Luck'. We all know you are not the same person at 35 that you were at 16. I think the right amount of time in this sentence is anywhere between 15 and 30 years based on the circumstances and the age he was."