Odessa killer topic of TV program
The monster on television tonight has nothing to do with make-believe Halloween ghouls.
This particular monster once roamed West Texas stalking his victims, destroying families forever, and shocking Odessans when the full details of his crimes came to light in 1982.
The story of Michael Eugene Sharp, often called a serial killer by law enforcement, is the topic of tonight’s “On the Case with Paula Zahn” at 9 p.m. on Investigation Discovery (ID).
The episode begins when 18-year-old Blanca Arreola Guerrero fails to return from a quick car ride and her relatives begin to worry.
Her family retraced her route to a store on Eighth Street in Odessa and discovered her abandoned car. Calls to those close to the pregnant 18-year-old only cemented family members’ worst fears in May 1982.
The young Odessan appeared to be the victim of an abduction. Investigators canvassed the area around her abandoned car and found a witness who saw her at a payphone when she was approached by a blue pickup truck. Seconds later, both were gone.
Police struggled to identify a suspect and as the weeks passed without any new leads and just as the case was about to go cold, investigators were told a shockingly similar story from a 14-year-old girl.
The girl was found in the oilfields outside of Kermit. She was naked and running with her hands bound behind her. Her name was Selena Elms and she told police that she, her mother and younger sister had been kidnapped by a man in a blue pickup truck from a car wash in Kermit.
Her mother, she would tell lawmen, was killed right in front of her and she was certain her young sister had suffered the same fate.
Now, Selena Elms Kelly as well as relatives of Guerrero, tell their story to Paula Zahn on tonight’s program.
‘There is no God’
Selena, who was 14, in 1982, has shared her story before. First in two trials, one for the murder of her mother and the other for the murder of her sister. She also detailed the horrendous details of the kidnapping and murders with Odessa American reporter Kim Smith prior to Sharp’s execution in 1997.
Smith vividly recalls her interviews with both Selena Elms Kelly and with death row inmate Sharp.
“Michael Eugene Sharp is the only suspected serial killer I’ve ever met and interviewed. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I set out to interview him on Death Row shortly before his execution,” Smith, now a reporter in Arizona, detailed via email. “Would I feel pure evilness sitting across from him? Would he be unrepentant or remorseful and scared?”
Smith said it turned out none of those things were true. “Sharp wasn’t remorseful in the least, but he also didn’t give me the heebie jeebies like I suspected Jeffrey Dahmer or a real-life Hannibal Lecter would.”
She said Sharp was just a well-spoken and incredibly selfish man. “He claimed to have found God in prison and yet he did not apologize for his heinous acts or beg for forgiveness.”
Smith attended the execution, along with Selena Elms Kelly. Smith had thought he might provide closure for those families still wondering if he had killed their loved ones as several unsolved West Texas killings seemed to fit his profile, but he never confessed. He didn’t even confess to the murder of Guerrero — but led lawmen to her body.
“Instead, he used our time together to promote the anti-death penalty organization he founded,” Smith recalled some 21 years after his execution.
Smith said her strongest memories, however, were of interviewing Selena Elms and accompanying her to the execution. The woman described, once again, how Sharp had abducted the three at knifepoint and then drove through the night to a water tank in the oilfields near the Winkler/Ector county line where he forced them to perform sexual acts on each other.
Selena, barefoot, escaped into the desert as her mother was being repeatedly stabbed by Sharp. It was her detailed description of Sharp’s winged horse tattoo that helped lead to his arrest in Sweetwater several days after the slayings. It was also her detailed description of the water tank that led authorities to the bodies of her mother and sister.
She would recall that Sharp told the terrified trio that there was “no God.”
“This woman had been through an almost indescribably horrendous experience as a child and yet she had gone on to lead a normal life as a wife and mother. I thought she showed incredible courage in not only testifying at both of Sharp’s trials, but in also showing up to watch him die.”
It was Smith’s reporting prior to the execution that spurred many Odessans to mobilize and create a fund to help the young mother with funding to travel to the execution.
“Hopefully, victims everywhere are inspired by Elm’s fortitude and willingness to talk about her experiences,” Smith recalled.
The program also features interviews with law enforcement as well former OA reporter Tim Madigan, now a writer living in Fort Worth, who covered the trial in 1983.