Richard Sharpe was a Harvard-educated doctor who wanted to become known for finding a cure for cancer (which his mother had died from) and other diseases. He loved research and he loved technology. He actually created software that would help doctors track their patients’ mammograms. He felt that too many times, lost, misplaced or neglected paperwork led doctors (and patients) to ignore important disease indicators until it was too late. This was back in the early days of the computer. There was nothing else like his health-tracking program at that time. He sold versions of it to various health clinics, ob/gyn practices, federal prisons and others. But instead of becoming known for this or any of his many other achievements, he became known as the “cross-dressing millionaire dermatologist who killed his wife.” How did that happen?
Richard Sharpe had been my friend long before he committed his terrible crime. I knew him as a man of science who was driven to do good in the world. Because he was a dermatologist and I was (and am) an electrologist and aesthetician, our business goals overlapped. When hair-removing lasers first got FDA approval in 1997, Richard Sharpe had the foresight to see that they would be the next big thing and he bought a couple of them. He then formed a coalition, with 18 area skin care professionals, whereby he would lease his lasers to people (like me) who couldn’t afford a laser of their own. Everybody made a ton of money during this time; making money was another aspect of his genius. But all of the new found wealth depended on him, and when he fell to pieces, the coalition went down like a house of cards.
After the crime, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, least of all Richard Sharpe. But he pleaded with me, through mutual acquaintances, to get in touch with him, not to turn my back on him in his darkest hour. It took a while, but I made the decision to continue to know him. Perhaps it was easier for me than for others, because my father had been in and out of trouble for many years and I had visited him in prisons from a very young age. I already knew the protocols for entering a prison. More importantly, I already knew that you can hate what someone does and still find a way to care about the person.
Cornered is not only Richard Sharpe’s story; it’s mine too. My decision to remain friends with him impacted my life in ways that were unimaginable to me at the time. I suffered a great deal of loss; and I gained a few insights. I think any reader who has experienced shifts in their life as a result of their association with a difficult or strong-willed or mentally-ill person—whether it is a child or a spouse or a friend—will identify with my story.
Linda DeFruscio is the founder and president of A & A Laser, Electrolysis & Skin Care Associates in Newtonville, MA. In addition to Cornered, her memoir about her friendship with Richard Sharpe, she is currently writing a book on skin care and completing a book of profiles based on interviews with transgender people, many of whom are her clients. WhileCornered is her first book, her skin care articles have been published in magazines for years. Connect with the author on Facebook and via her website.
About the Book
In the year 2000, Linda DeFruscio was forced to make an unthinkable decision. Someone whose genius she admired immensely, a business associate and dear friend, committed a terrible crime. In response, she could cut off their friendship and avoid the risk of losing friends, clients and her own peace of mind—or, she could trust her gut and try to save some aspect of her friend’s humanity.
Cornered is Linda DeFruscio’s story of her long and often complex association with Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, the millionaire dermatologist from Gloucester, MA who was convicted of killing his wife. Beautifully written and surprisingly tender, Corneredallows the reader an upfront view of the fragility of genius and the decline into madness, all while casting a second light on how one woman’s refusal to turn her back resulted in momentous changes in her own life.
Find out more on Amazon.