Colorado woman warned parole board about offender months before he struck again

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COLORADO — A Colorado man is currently on trial for brutally assaulting and almost killing his girlfriend in Utah.

John Sharkey is set to stand trial, just months after serving ten years for committing a nearly identical crime in Colorado Springs. That crime involved another ex-girlfriend. The two cases are not the only domestic violence cases on Sharkey’s rap sheet.

Tara Loo met Sharkey as a student at Cheyenne Mountain High School. The two were friends, but they went their separate ways after graduation. Years later, they reconnected on Facebook. By then, Tara was divorced and raising two young girls.

After a month of dating, Sharkey moved in, but the couple started fighting. Eventually, Loo said she told Sharkey to move out. Hours later on December 12, 2009, he brutally attacked her.

“He said you’re a crappy mom anyway and I’ve gone too far and I’m going to have to kill you,” said Loo.

According to court documents, Sharkey beat Loo for hours, strangled her until she lost consciousness, stabbed her, and left her outside for dead. But Loo survived.

“He was sentenced to ten years for his assault on me,” Loo said. “He was on probation at the time, so he was sentenced to an additional six years on top of the 10 – from a case in Gunnison.”

Three years before Sharkey attacked Loo, he was accused of handcuffing, drugging, beating, and raping a girlfriend in Gunnison, Colorado. Court records say Sharkey told that woman, “I’m gonna kill you, you’ve ruined my life and things have gone too far.”

Once Sharkey became eligible for parole, Loo stood in front of the parole board, asking them to keep her attacker in custody.

“The last thing I said to them was, ‘if you guys grant this parole, and he gets out again, he is going to kill someone… and it’s going to be in your hands,'” Loo said.

In the victim impact statement she wrote for trial, Loo advised the man who nearly killed her to “make the best of your time in prison doing whatever is needed to become a better, wiser you so that you never hurt anyone ever again.”

But, after serving ten years, despite Loo’s arguments, Sharkey was granted parole in 2020.

“I don’t think a day went by where I didn’t think, is today going to be the day I get a call and find out he has killed someone or hurt someone?” Loo said.

It didn’t take long.

On January 26, 2021, Sharkey was arrested for the third time in Utah. He is facing a total of nine charges including aggravated kidnapping, aggravating assault, and distribution of an intimate image.

During a recent preliminary hearing, his survivor issued a statement describing the attack saying Sharkey tried to rape her, threw eggs on her, punched and urinated on her, and choked her until she lost consciousness.

“This defendant is a very dangerous and violent person, shown from two prior convictions for very serious domestic violence offenses – and you have a third case. The state will go forward,” said Tony Baird, Deputy Attorney of Cache County, Utah.

Loo learned about the attack in Utah from a friend.

“It’s kind of like, ‘I told you this was going to happen.’ But no one wants to listen to the victim, who knows the perpetrator the most – knows them emotionally and their behaviors,” she said.

However, prosecutors in Utah face a possible challenge.

“Victims have a tough time. They are abused, they are assaulted and yet they still have feelings for their perpetrator. And in this particular case, according to an affidavit that she filed along with the defense motion, she’s recanting certain aspects of her original report,” said Baird.

Still, prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to go forward with this case.

Loo hopes they do.

“Abusers abuse. It’s so deeply rooted. And those behaviors don’t change- it gets worse over time, it doesn’t get better,” she said.

In the meantime, Sharkey is in custody, awaiting trial.

A hearing on June 22 will address the latest motion filed by the defense.

If Sharkey is found guilty, he could face life in prison.

If you or someone you know is dealing with similar domestic violence situations, you are not alone. The Nation Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE.

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