A 21-year-old man in Delaware will spend the rest of his life behind bars for the brutal slaying of his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend, whom he lured into the woods and ambushed just over two years ago. A New Castle County jury on Thursday found Noah Sharp guilty on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree conspiracy, and possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony in the death of Madison Sparrow, prosecutors announced.
Under Delaware state law, Sharp will face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Sparrow’s friend, Annika Stalczynski, in May pleaded guilty to similar first-degree murder and first-degree conspiracy charges in the teen’s death. Defense attorneys reached a deal with prosecutors in which Stalczynski agreed to testify against Sharp about their plot to kill Sparrow.
“This case has hung heavy on our community’s, and this office’s, hearts for the past two years,” Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a statement following the verdict. “Prosecutors spend their careers steeped in the details of heinous crimes — I personally have seen virtually every horrific case in our state’s history. But the truth is that nothing can prepare you for something like this. The depravity of what these two defendants, whom the victim believed were her friends, did to young Madison is nearly beyond comprehension.”
As previously reported by Law&Crime, Sparrow on the evening of Oct. 2 was reported missing several hours after she left the house to meet Stalczynski for ice cream and never returned. Hours after she left, Sparrow’s phone sent her mother several text messages that suggested the teen was running away. The texts stopped as her phone was turned off. Richard Prestidge, Sparrow’s father, told investigators that the texts suggested a conscious desire to leave home, but were “really weird” and didn’t make much sense to the family because his daughter left her credit card and most of her money at home.
Sparrow’s body was discovered in a wooded area approximately two days after she was reported missing. Interviews with friends quickly pointed investigators in the direction of a then-19-year-old Sharp, who subsequently confessed to the murder.
Sharp admitted to striking Sparrow in the head with aluminum baseball bat in the wooded area behind Maclary Elementary School late Friday afternoon or early in the evening. Detectives then searched the area and recovered the alleged murder weapon along with blood droplets and some of Sparrow’s clothing. Sharp then guided investigators to a separate wooded area near the intersection of I-95 and Delaware State Highway 896 where he’d hidden Sparrow’s body in a shallow grave.
An autopsy determined she was killed by blunt-force trauma to the head.
Despite his confession and intricate knowledge of where to Sparrow was killed and her body discarded, Sharp went on to plead not guilty to her murder. During the trial, prosecutors showed evidence indicating that Sharp and a then 17-year-old Stalczynski began planning Sparrow’s murder nearly two weeks in advance of her death, according to a report from the Delaware News Journal.
Text exchanges between the two showed Sharp and Stalczynski discussing plans, murder weapons, and how to dispose of the body, the report said. Sharp’s attorneys also claimed that someone else could have been in control of his electronic devices, but testimony from Stalczynski likely sealed the deal with the jury, the Delaware News Journal report continued.
Stalczynski reportedly confirmed prosecutors’ arguments during her three-hour testimony, explaining how Sharp convinced her that Sparrow was “spreading [her] business.”
Madison’s parents issued the following statement:
We want to thank our friends and family. This has been a two-year process and we couldn’t have done this without their love and constant support. We also want to thank the community and especially Newark Charter School and its administration and families, along with the community that has supported the Love Wins 5K the last two years and that supports the Madison Sparrow Memorial Scholarship to aid future educators.
Prosecutors said they are still seeking the maximum penalty against Stalcyznski of life in prison. However, since she was a minor at the time of the crime, state law requires that her sentence be reviewed after 30 years.
[images via Delaware State Police]
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