Sharon Russell: Mom Sues HPD (Again) for Auctioning off Evidence Related to Daughter's Suspicious Death

Categories: Courts

Courtesy of Sganga family
Houston police accidentally auctioned off evidence in the case of Tara Sganga's death, and her mother wants compensation.
Approximately three years ago, the Houston Police Department auctioned off evidence that prosecutors planned to use in a tricky case against a disgraced lawyer named Shawn Roberts. Roberts's girlfriend, Tara Sganga, was found dead in her apartment in March 2007, and prosecutors planned to use Sganga's computers and cell phones in their case against Roberts.

The evidence had been placed in storage, but Houston police officials later said it had inadvertently been sold. Roberts was acquitted on charges that he injected Sganga with a fatal dose of heroin. Sganga's mother sued the Houston Police Department and lost. Now she's trying again.

When Houston Fire Department medics were called to the apartment Roberts shared with Sganga, they noted a hematoma on the back of the 31-year-old's head, a bleeding laceration on her right elbow and a cluster of contusions along her jaw. The floor of the bathroom where she was found was littered with the shards of a broken glass candlestick. After Roberts told police Sganga had recently taken Xanax and Vicodin, investigators apparently chalked up Sganga's death as an ordinary overdose. Had they actually searched the apartment, they would have found bloody clothing -- evidence her sister found that evening, and evidence which disappeared along with Sganga's laptops, cell phones and two expensive rings, which were family heirlooms. She's asking for at least $200,000.

"I wanted to give one ring to my daughter Maria, and I wanted one," Sganga's mother Sharon Russell told Hair Balls.

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland told KRIV that "with over a quarter of a million pieces of property contained in the building, can an item be lost, misplaced? Yes."

In 2010, a Harris County District Judge agreed with the city's contention that, under the rule of sovereign immunity, HPD could not be held liable; the case was dismissed.

Frankly, we were surprised to learn that Russell is trying the same thing with the same lawyer -- a guy whose phone goes straight to voice mail with every call, and who doesn't like responding to messages, unless you leave one suggesting he's just trying to milk a still-grieving mother dry. Then he'll call back right away.

We were so excited to finally get Ernest Powell III on the horn, because we wanted to understand why he thinks he has a stronger case this time. When he told us it's because this suit was filed on behalf of Sganga's estate (the first was filed on behalf of Russell), we asked him to elaborate. After all, this latest petition was identical to the first, right down to the typo that listed Sganga's death as 2009 instead of 2007. It appears the dude just did a copy-and-paste. Why, legally or strategically, would having a different plaintiff work?

Powell told us, "Well, for instance, if...let's say that someone stole your property, and someone else may have had a cause of action because of the events that occurred, for instance...there was a tort against a third party, that third party may have rights, and you may have rights, even though it surrounded the same set of circumstances."

Uh, okay.

Powell then offered another example: "If you have two people in a vehicle, someone runs a red light and hits that vehicle, both parties may bring a lawsuit against the culpable party, correct?...In essence, this is the same thing."

Powell told us he hasn't taken a payment for this case. And, unfortunately for Russell, we think she'll get her money's worth.

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Location Info


Harris County Civil Courts

201 Caroline St., Houston, TX

Category: General

Houston Police Department Headquarters

1200 Travis St., Houston, TX

Category: General

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NO there IS NOT and WAS NOT any such evidence. I can't help the fact that certain individuals cannot read or interpret a report, be it autopsy or other. The ME testified at the trial. No pics were introduced and there was testimony that Tara had NO blood coming from her head, there were no signs of struggle, nothing under her fingernails, and none, I repeat not a single shred of testimony or evidence that Tara had been struck, abused, nothing bc I never hit her no matter how many times she hit or scratched me(which she did several times) which was a first for me regarding relationships yet I never retaliated and to this day have never struck a woman with a fist or open hand. All I have ever done when attacked was to protect myself by leaving or restraining her from striking me. I challenge anyone I have ever dated or any of their friends that they may have confided in or had an opportunity to witness anything remotely re violence to come forward with any allegations of physical abuse or violence. Period. All this made up bullshit makes me sick. I have always said that men who abuse women are cowards and I have no friends that beat women. The implication that Tara was bruised or battered or bleeding is complete slander. They are lies, malicious outright devious misrepresentations, put forth for one reason. To attack my character and hurt me and my family. I have a daughter that is old enough to understand the implications, a profession that is damaged extremely by these false allegations, because the bigger the lie, the easier to believe. This whole article and subsequent pieces are veiled and implied lies constructed in such a way to make me look like an abuser, a violent person, and plants the seeds that I am a murderer, a scumbag, with amazing, almost supernatural powers to control the police, the DA's, that I collect guns and knives,( I do not own a single one) that somehow I had something to do with my mothers suicide, although my love and our bond was incredibly unique, that I somehow had a hand in my wife's death regardless of the fact that we never fought except for issues re her drug use ( I was the one who sent her to rehab). I was the only relationship she had where she was not physically abused and had no reason to wish her harm. I loved her as a life partner and NEVER laid a hand on her. No one can say otherwise. As for my supposed "roomate", after reading this slanderous bs, (he had only stayed at our house for 2 nights and was told he HAD to leave the next morning and go home to his daughters birthday or find another place to stay because he was adversely effecting Amanda with his drinking and had been kicked out of his own home for passing out naked in his yard and garage, respectively, in front of his 3 daughters. Obviously he needed help and was advised to check in rehab by his wife, friends, and by me. Yet Malislow implies that I had something to do with all their tragedies. He even suggests that "Jennie" was moved out of state for her safety, that somehow while incarcerated I posed a threat. Yet she consistently came to visit, wrote letters, and put $ on my commissary. She testified truthfully at the bond hearing that she had never seen me inject my wife or shoot up personally. She also testified that she never witnessed anyone injecting drugs at her home. Her testimony re my drug usage was that she "guessed" I was taking pills because "everyone was"..Why in the world would I want harm to come to any of the people Malislow implies and states that they all had one thing in common-me. Obviously law enforcement did thorough investigations considering how publicized it was that the Texas Rangers were involved, yet not a single person involved with the tragedies working for law enforcement has ever mentioned or found one thing vital to a supposed murderer-INTENT. Because you can't find what doesn't exist. And one thing is crystal clear. I loved all of them, wished ill will on none of them, and never acted in a violent manner towards anyone that Malislow and Tara's lying, drug supplying, thieving family mentioned. In conclusion, I want this trash removed from the internet, for Tara's mother, sister, friends, etc. to face up to reality. To admit trashing destroying my diplomas, law license, to stealing all my belongings out of storage and furniture from our apartment. That they threatened me and my mother. The fact her mother has used this situation to compensate for her guilt in not being around while we were dating, that for some sick reason she wants this media attention. But Sharon Russell aka Sharon Sganga, aka, Sharon Contino, aka cocktail waitress at certain clubs, IDK how many names she has used... sat though the entire trial, knows there was no testimony re physical abuse or altercation, is in denial re her beloved son Johnny Contino's contribution of cocaine to Tara behind my back, knows she almost died before of an overdose by abusing roofies or other benzos like xanax, battled depression, knows I had put almost $8,000 in Tara's account shortly before her passing, knows Tara and Maha broke in my storage, took a $5000 persian rug and a framed Ronnie Lott jersey, storing it at Jackson's (she felt guilty and confessed she had done it bc she was jealous and afraid i would leave her) that she was in my storage with my law desk, all my files, all my memorabilia, 2 persian rugs worth over $10,000, my leather couches, my coffee and end tables, my table and chairs, my computers, my flatscreen, my suits (over $60,000) worth, my other clothes, all my personal effects including my bible, all my photos, my framed Flag, framed Elway jersey, lifetime NACDL crystal, several other Waterford crystals given to me by my mother, all furniture from my law office, all my book keeping, client accounts, files, motions, 15 years worth of accumulated books and guides re the profession of law and many many crucial documents related to my practice. Further she knows that I was purposefully kept out of the loop re her funeral, that either she, Johnny, or Marie had,, or still have or destroyed or sold all the aforementioned belongings. I am tired of holding my tongue, trying to treat them with respect while lies and misrepresentations are constantly spewed from their mouths. I have tried to take the high road and look where its gotten me. Manufactured and bullshit charges being filed knowing there was no chance of a conviction but taking satisfaction in destroying my name, keeping me incarcerated with a no bond for almost six months while the case (over three years old then ) kept getting reset and reset. There is an old saying in the legal community. "You can beat the rap, but you cannot beat the ride". That is exactly what happened to me. Everything was front page news or on tv until I was found not guilty. Then there was no tv coverage, no chance to tell my side of the story, a newspaper article much smaller announcing the acquittal on page 2-3, and no requests for interviews afterwards. Then they find this pathetic journalist who buys into their delusions, or doesn't care and sees an opportunity for a sensationalized article, not giving a damn what the truth is, not using any diligence pursuing the truth, hardly uses any of the interview I granted and refused to listen to any other issues, consistently and with malice makes up a story replete with insidious insinuations, outright lies and misrepresentations, apologizes for several errors in the first paragraphs and prints a correction no one sees(while making even more errors during the supposed correction), I was born in 1969, not married, continues defamation in a recent blog trying to connect knives, blood, (which after reading results in people envisioning an apartment strewn with so much blood it was written to portay a war zone a crazed , bloodthirsty killer on a rampage), yet she died of drowning with hardly a blemish on her body, that the State lost evidence crucial to the case which never existed or had anything to do with the case or cases which the DA got forced into trying because of her running to the media, and after soundly being defeated in the manufactured and "novel and unusual" cases which were brought against me. Then she blames the DA, who actually did a good job prosecuting the case, despite the fact that had it not been for the circumstances would never have seen the inside of a courtroom and if it had should have been brought against the actual drug dealers in the case, her brother( former client) and the State's key witness also a former client, but no one ever asked me my version as it pertained to those two. Their records speak for themselves. Why they decided to focus all their energies on publicly and privately prosecuting me, using every possible opportunity to get her mug on TV, denouncing me when all she need have done is ask her son what happened in the days preceding and asking him if I in fact did run off some of his friends for being bad influences. But her most despicable acts, besides the threats, is the cleansing, looting of the storage not a day or 2 after her daughters death, the theft and destruction of my personal and private property which I will pursue charges now if I am able because I have, until this point in time, refused to engage and/or tell the truth because I know Tara wouldn't want her mom's assorted history and actions, or her brothers, or possibly her sisters actions to be revealed. However, I have reached my breaking point and can no longer sit idly by, exercising forgiveness and silence while I am lied about, have had to deal with a malicious reporter with no desire for the truth, only sensational allegations filling in the blanks with speculation, printing spoon fed morsels of dark lies and spinning them for the public, portraying me as a villain parlaying his malice into the 5th most popular, rather notorious, article of the year in our fair city. In conclusion, I want my personal property back, including my 2 laptops she is suing the city for, my platinum and diamond cross that Tara had along with my furniture, my money, my clothing, my Range Rover, my flat screens, my photos,my rugs, and everything my law office contained that her mother stole out of our storage. Further I want Mr. Malislow held accountable and this story withdrawn from the internet. While I can never recoup in money the damages caused by the author and his publication in printing a story so full of supposition, out right lies, malice, and personal, private, public, and professional harm, I will pursue it from this point forward. Should law enforcement care to hear the truth re what happened to Tara, and follow the information up with indictments and prosecution, I will testify truthfully against all of them, even though I know that's not what Tara would have wanted. However, if her family cannot act like she would have asked them to act had she had an opportunity to do so, like maybe she did after almost dying in the hospital from abuse of a certain drug her brother told me about years before I knew her, if her friend Maha can make statements on the record re me and her feelings while coming over all the time to partake with Tara, if no one interviewed can tell the truth that Tara was not withdrawn, but rather had people over almost daily and certainly all weekend every weekend, if her mom cannot be upfront re her one visit during "this time of terrible transformation", which of course was caused by me and only me, then I must set the record straight and do what she urged of me. Don't waste any time going forward while not forgetting I am a "badass", using my gifts to set the record straight once and for all.RIP Tara, you know the truth, and know the love given you by my mother, myself, my brother, my grandparents and the rest of my family. I wish you could have stayed around and experienced more of the love my family gave to you with out stretched arms, unconditional and without judgement of you or your family


I am so sick of your lies and defamation Craig. Homicide was there for over two hours and searched every inch of that apartment. There were no bloody clothes, no bruises on her face, no hematoma and there was no evidence the DA planned on using at trial that was lost. There were no photos of this supposed evidence. Tara drowned in a tub. In part bc her family (brother) was supplying her with cocaine that had her up for 2/3 days yet hes answered for nothing. She died very similar to Whitney Houston. All your implied comments re meth were bullshit considering she had none in her system. I've offered numerous times to let you read the transcript of actual testimony from the ME yet all you continue to do is print false defamatory statements', with malicious intent, and have yet to double check your supposed sources for accuracy. Why don't you write an article re her brothers role and how they not only vandalized my personal belongings', but stole them like the thieves they are. Why do you continue to write about bloody clothes, bloody surroundings, in an effort to make it appear that she died a violent death? To call me a disgraced lawyer? Craig you are a disgrace to your profession. One of the laptops was mine anyway. That evidence was gathered and used for purposes of burglary of a vehicle, it had nothing to do with my trial..while we all loved and miss Tara, I can assure you she could not be more disappointed or embarassed with how this whole tragedy has been handled. Her mom was so concerned she visited us one time the entire time we dated. She spent 20 x more time with my mother thanks her own.


HPD did the same thing with dildos and sex toys from EmporioXXX. But I doubt they auctioned them off; probably just some good gag gifts.

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