Psychologist: Hit-and-run suspect 'crazy'
Posted March 5, 2010 3:06 p.m. EST
Updated March 5, 2010 6:36 p.m. EST
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A psychologist testified Friday that a man accused in a 2004 hit-and-run rampage across three counties has had psychotic episodes.
Abdullah El-Amin Shareef, 31, of Raeford, is charged with murder and four counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him.
Authorities said Shareef stole a city-owned van in Fayetteville on April 14, 2004, 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.
Shareef has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and his attorneys said he suffered from untreated paranoid schizophrenia.
Thomas Harbin, a psychologist in private practice in Fayetteville, testified Friday that he evaluated Shareef the day after the incident and found him to be "unresponsive and mumbling."
When he visited Shareef in the Cumberland County jail last June, Harbin said, it appeared that Shareef wasn't taking his anti-psychotic medication, or the medication wasn't working for him.
"At that time, he told me he was God, that he was telepathing and teleporting,” he told jurors, adding that Shareef said he owned several companies, including McDonald’s and Reebok and was working on a plan to fix the nation's deficit.
Harbin called it a psychotic episode, explaining for jurors, "It's a professional word for crazy."
Shareef's wife, Talethia Shareef, testified Wednesday and Thursday that her husband began acting erratically about two years before the rampage.
He once tried to strangle one of their children, who was a toddler at the time, saying God told him he needed to sacrifice his son and compared himself to the biblical character of Abraham, Talethia Shareef said.
On Friday, Rashad Rahmaan, a mental health professional who happens to be a friend of Abdullah Shareef's family, testified that he thought Shareef should have received inpatient mental health treatment around the time of the rampage.
Rahmaan said he tried to get Shareef evaluated at a mental health facility in Hoke County, but the rampage occurred while he was waiting for his appointment at the facility.
"They were the institution that actually failed our system. Had they done what they were supposed to do, this incident would have never happened," he testified.
Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Cal Colyer pressed Rahmaan in cross-examination as to why he didn't do more to help his friend.
"Did you attempt to have him involuntarily committed?" Colyer asked.
"No," Rahmaan replied.
Shareef was placed at a Salvation Army in Cumberland County two days before the rampage because there was nowhere else for him to stay, Rahmaan said.
"You and (Shareef's) father brought him over to Fayetteville and dumped him at the Salvation Army so you didn't have to mess with him any more, didn't you?" Colyer asked.
"No, sir. We didn't dump him anyplace. He's a human being," Rahmaan said.
The defense plans to wrap up its case by late Monday or Tuesday, attorneys said.