The strange, 40-mile low-speed bucket-truck chase that put Vanessa Napier in jail also exposed a homicide and the turbulent lives of the accused and victim.
The next chapter unfolds Thursday as Napier heads to court for a preliminary hearing in the stabbing death of University of Kentucky Medical School graduate and former general surgeon John A. Sharp, 53. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges, which include murder.
Sharp's body was found outside a house on Athens-Walnut Hill Road on July 4, two days after he died. On July 3, Napier, 32, allegedly stole a bucket truck from its driver at a BP station, leading police in a two-county pursuit until the truck's back tires disintegrated.
Although family members of Sharp and Napier aren't talking, extensive court and other records reveal turmoil-filled lives in the years before the murder.
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About the time a 17-year-old Napier began her long court history with an eviction from her Lexington apartment in 1999, Sharp's medical license was suspended in California and Kentucky, the beginning of a period that ultimately included domestic-violence cases and increasingly erratic behavior and threats of violence. He last lost his license to practice in 2012. An injury that left Sharp with limited use of his arm might have been the source of his troubles.
For Napier, Fayette County jail is familiar; she has been booked 19 times in the past 10 years, according to jail records.
She had been out of jail only about a week before she was charged July 5 in Sharp's death, said Capt. Darin Kelly, jail spokesman. Napier had served a 60-day sentence for receiving stolen property, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana and giving a false name, according to court records.
Her misdemeanor record began in 2005 with a theft charge; successive charges included assault, burglary, shoplifting, public intoxication, multiple possessions of marijuana, and promoting contraband, according to court records.
Napier has had 13 misdemeanor convictions, but none for felonies, according to court records. All the felony charges were amended or dismissed.
It is unclear how Napier's path crossed with Sharp's, but police reports indicated he was Napier's boyfriend. Sharp's family say the two were not in a steady relationship.
Sharp, who grew up in Lexington, graduated from medical school in 1988, UK spokeswoman Kathy Johnson said. He was a general surgeon and practiced in California, according to court records.
At some point, Sharp's left arm was injured, and he had to undergo several surgeries to repair a major nerve, according to a letter Sharp wrote to Fayette District Judge Joseph T. Bouvier in the midst of a criminal case filed against him for failure to pay child support.
The surgeries were extremely painful, said Sharp's former attorney, Shelby Kinkead. The surgeries were not successful; Sharp did not have full use of the arm, Kinkead said. The last of the operations was in 2009, according to Sharp's letter.
The letter and other court documents show that after his injury, Sharp's life spiraled out of control. His medical license was suspended in 2000 because he had failed to complete continuing medical education requirements, according to court records. While the exact date of Sharp's injury was not in court records, his letter implies the injury occurred before the suspension.
In 2009, Sharp spent time at an alcohol and drug treatment facility in California called Casa Palmera, and Sharp mentioned in his letter spending two months at Casa Palmera for pain management. Casa Palmera refused to comment whether those two instances involved the same stay. While at Casa Palmera in 2009, it was concluded that Sharp was not able to practice medicine safely, according to court records.
Nonetheless, in May 2011, Sharp's medical license was reinstated in Kentucky because he completed the necessary education. But Sharp lost the license within a year.
In 2011, Sharp's father and Sharp's ex-wife sought protective orders in Lexington to keep him from contacting them. Both cases talk of Sharp wanting to kill people. Sharp's father, Brown Sharp, also requested that John Sharp surrender all firearms and his concealed-carry license. The judge agreed, according to records.
"John has said he wants to shoot someone to see how it feels," according to documents filed by his father.
Brown Sharp owns the farm on Athens-Walnut Hill Road where John Sharp's body was found. The younger Sharp might have been living there.
In August 2011, John Sharp was admitted involuntarily to Eastern State Hospital because of concerns of possible delusions and threats of violence, according to court records.
"He was released after it was determined that he exhibited no signs of delusional behavior and had no suicidal or homicidal plans or intentions," according to records.
In her October 2011 case over child support, Sharp's ex-wife, Cynthia Adams, said he "expressed to me that he wanted to kill someone and watch them die to see how it would feel." Sharp also said he would kill any officials who would come to collect child support, according to Adams' case.
Adams said Sharp made no direct threats to her or their daughter, Lelaina Sharp.
Kinkead was Sharp's lawyer for the child-support case. Sharp failed to appear for some court proceedings and spent two months in jail.
When he was released, the obviously bright Sharp had a very sad life, Kinkead said.
In May 2012, Sharp's medical license was restricted indefinitely over allegations he had been phoning in prescriptions for people who were not his patients from 2008 to 2011.
For the licensing board, Sharp was evaluated by three doctors who diagnosed major depression, anxiety, pain disorder, dementia, and dependence on opioids and Klonopin, according to records.
One evaluator said, "Dr. Sharp has significant cognitive deterioration from what can be reasonably assumed to be his former level of functioning. ... His memory seems to be genuinely impaired."
It appears that before his death, Sharp's mental health did not improve. In a case from April, Sharp's now-grown daughter said he claimed to have "visions" of where she was and then went to that area to see her. "I am fearful he is stalking me and is dangerous," she said. "He recently has threatened others with knives and guns."
Neither police nor family members of Sharp and Napier have given any indication that Sharp ever threatened Napier.