FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The wife of a man accused in a 2004 hit-and-run rampage across three counties testified Wednesday that his behavior changed drastically a couple of years before the crime.
Abdullah El-Amin Shareef, 31, of Raeford, is charged with murder and four counts of attempted murder in the April 14, 2004, incident.
Authorities said Shareef stole a city-owned van in Fayetteville, hit and injured three men in Fayetteville, then ran over Lonel Bass in Linden, killing him. Shareef abandoned the van, took Bass' pickup truck and continued north, authorities said, running down another man in Harnett County before crashing the truck in Fuquay-Varina, where he was arrested.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Shareef. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and his attorneys said he suffered from untreated paranoid schizophrenia.
Talethia Shareef wept on the witness stand Wednesday as she related the course of her marriage to jurors.
"He was very sweet to me. He made everyone at our wedding cry," she said, adding they were married in 1999 and have three children. "We were like best friends."
In 2002, when the couple was visiting Abdullah Shareef's parents in Raeford, his wife said, he hit her with a belt and began accusing her of having an affair with his brother.
Talethia Shareef said she attributed his changing behavior to his father's illness and tight family finances.
"He was just really agitated all the time. He was extremely mean," she said.
Abdullah Shareef once tried to strangle one of his children, who was a toddler at the time, his wife said.
"He told me he was trying to sacrifice his son, that God had told him that. As Abraham had to do with his child, he would have to sacrifice his son, and that's what he needed to do," she testified.
In December 2003, Talethia Shareef said, she was admitted to a hospital after her husband hit her with a gun. She said he then showed up at her bedside.
"One time, he would just be like dancing around the room, but he was just extremely like a child," she said.
Abdullah Shareef was admitted to Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh in January 2004 for mental health treatment, his wife said.
"It was not a good idea to let him out because he was just way out of whack," she said. "We were afraid he was going to hurt somebody or himself."
He was released after a few days, and he was later arrested in Winston-Salem on charges of attempted larceny and assaulting a government official.
Talethia said his erratic behavior continued when she saw him in jail.
"Sometimes, I would talk to him and he would respond, and sometimes he wouldn't respond. But he was just talking to himself mainly," she said.
He was released from jail in March, a few weeks before the hit-and-run rampage.
Cumberland County District Judge George Franks, Shareef's former lawyer, testified Wednesday that Shareef was unresponsive to his questions after his arrest in April 2004.