Man found guilty of murder of retired University Chemistry professor

Sunday, June 9, 2019 - 6:14pm

Robert Sharp, the retired University of Michigan chemistry professor was found dead in his Ann Arbor home June 10, 2018.

Robert Sharp, the retired University of Michigan chemistry professor was found dead in his Ann Arbor home June 10, 2018. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

Every morning since 2004, Robert Sharp would wake up and drive to Wendy’s to eat breakfast with his wife and feed a few stray cats. One Wendy’s employee, Isom Hamilton, took notice of his schedule.

On June 10, 2018, the retired University of Michigan chemistry professor was found dead in his Ann Arbor home on 3200 Alpine Drive. Hamilton was found guilty of open murder, armed robbery, first degree home arson, home invasion and mutilating a dead body on Friday.

Less than a week before Sharp’s death, Ann Arbor police walked around the retired professor’s small home to find a few electronics and a single check stolen, though the whole stack of checks was nearby. On their second visit, a trail of blood leading from the kitchen to the basement pointed police to Sharp’s dead body, stabbed 28 times and heavily burned with a pile of his charred possessions beside him.

Starting on June 3, Hamilton’s bench trial lasted several days before Darlene O’Brien, Washtenaw County trial judge, declared Hamilton guilty of all charges besides first-degree home invasion. Because neither Hamilton’s prints nor his DNA were found at the scene of the crime, Judge O’Brien could not conclude whether there was any indication of forced entry.

In looking at the evidence, it is unclear if the defendant broke into the home,” O’Brien said. “Sharp knew the defendant and, given the victim’s history of being a nice man, he could have invited the defendant into the home.

Hamilton maintained his innocence since his arrest, continually referencing the lack of DNA and fingerprints found at 3200 Alpine Drive.

Using testimony collected by the Ann Arbor Police Department, John Vella, assistant prosecuting attorney, revealed Hamilton knew Sharp and carried out a plan to steal his possessions on multiple occasions before, after Hamilton unexpectedly found Sharp in his home, he murdered him.

Police discovered two laptops were serviced at the Apple store in Briarwood Mall belonging to Sharp — one stolen during the June 6 robbery and one on June 11. A security video camera inside the Apple store caught Hamilton with both laptops asking to have the data removed.

Furthermore, an attempted $2,000 transfer from Sharp’s account to an account in Hamilton’s name was recorded by Chase Bank on June 10.

At first, police were initially unable to find Hamilton as he was listed as homeless but later intercepted him walking off a parolee bus near Liberty Plaza. When arrested, he was found in possession of both of Sharp’s laptops, which he claimed were bought three months ago.

Hamilton’s grandmother testified he came home the night of Sharp’s death with a small patch of blood on his pants. He told her he was fine, and she washed his clothing sometime later that evening. After the police completed a search of the house, both the stained pants and Sharp’s missing electronics were found.

Since November 2017, Hamilton had been on parole for assaulting of a police officer, first degree arson and the possession of a dangerous weapon. He served four years for these charges in addition to a 2012 conviction for robbing and threatening an Eastern Michigan University professor.

Felony murder, one of his four current charges, has a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. He will be sentenced June 28.

After hearing the charges, David Sharp, son of Robert Sharp, wept in the courtroom saying he was hit with a “flood of emotions.” In a previous interview with MLIVE, Sharp’s son touched on his father’s character saying he “made him who he is.”

My dad loved Ann Arbor and everything about it, David Sharp said. He loved to learn, read and travel. He knew so much about so many things that you could talk to him for hours and continually learn something new.