Former Hartford school leader police say linked to 1984 rapes faces second day of kidnapping trial

Michael Sharpe, 71, of Marlborough, faces eight counts of first-degree kidnapping — two for each of four women — stemming from overnight attacks in Bloomfield, Middletown, Windsor and Rocky Hill in 1984. 

Police believe he restrained the women and raped them at gunpoint. He could not be charged with sexual assault because the statute of limitations in place at the time had expired when Sharpe became a suspect.

Police said the women didn’t know their attacker, but advances in DNA technology developed Sharpe as a suspect.

The first victim to testify said Tuesday that she woke up in the overnight hours in early June 1984 to a stranger sitting next to her arm, rubbing her. She was 25 at the time and is now 63. 

The man, who had a gun and appeared to have pulled a stocking over his face, quietly slipped into the Bloomfield apartment she shared with another woman, she testified. The man threatened to shoot her and her roommate and then raped her, according to the woman, identified as Jane Doe No. 1. The roommate was in another bedroom and apparently didn’t hear the attack. 

Sharpe was the head of Family Urban Schools of Excellence, which ran a network of charter schools. including Jumoke Academy in Hartford and Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport. FUSE received millions in state money for the schools, which were geared to focus on underprivileged students.

He and his company were later fired after Sharpe was discovered to have lied about his credentials and his criminal background as well as the criminal backgrounds of people he hired to work as school aides. He pleaded guilty in 1985 in Hartford to two counts of third-degree forgery and, four years later, pleaded guilty to embezzlement while working in Oakland, Calif., and served prison time. 

After years of not being able to match DNA found at the crime scenes with samples in databases, investigators developed Sharpe as a suspect in the crimes by using publicly available genealogy information, according to the state Department of Justice.

On Nov. 9, 2020, investigators retrieved Sharpe’s DNA from items found in trash left at the curb of his Marlborough home, officials said. The DNA was a match, officials said, and Sharpe was arrested on Nov. 16, 2020.

Christine Dempsey may be reached at

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