Local News

Psychologist: Hit-and-run suspect did not recall crimes

Posted March 8, 2010 11:51 a.m. EST
Updated March 8, 2010 5:51 p.m. EST

— A psychologist testified Monday that a man accused in a 2004 hit-and-run rampage across three counties could not recall the crimes the day after the rampage.

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 Monday that he evaluated Shareef the day after the incident and found him to be unable to recall what happened. “However many times I asked him that, he said he didn’t remember,” Harbin said.

Harbin did four evaluations on Shareef between April 2004 and January 2009. He said Shareef suffered from schizophrenia on the day of the rampage. The disease "destroys a person's mind," he said.

"Their personal hygiene gets real bad. They won't bathe anymore. They won't take care of their appearance," he said.

Schizophrenia can lead people to do psychotic things, Harbin said.

"You got a guy running around in his underwear and starting randomly running over people – that looks crazy," he said.

Harbin added that Shareef did not meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Harbin said in his first mental assessment tests, Shareef tried to make himself look good – which worked against an insanity defense. “Trying to make yourself look unrealistically virtuous … is actually working against his best interest in an insanity defense,” he said.

Dr. George Corvin, a general and forensic psychiatrist in Raleigh, also testified on Monday. Corvin evaluated Shareef at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh two days after the rampage.

Corvin said it is "unusual for someone to be admitted to Dorothea Dix" just two days after an offense. It usually takes weeks or longer for them to be admitted, he said.

During the evaluation, Shareef appeared to be in a catatonic state, Corvin said. “Abdullah Shareef made no utterance at all during the course of the assessment,” he said.

Shareef smelled bad and appeared to have urine stains on his pants, he said.

Corvin said Shareef “was in the top 10 psychotic individuals I have seen in my career.”

During an April 22 evaluation, Corvin said, Shareef was not responsive to any of his questions and was mumbling. “He still had a vacant stare,” he said.

It's rare to see someone in such a catatonic state, Corvin said. “You don’t see that degree of psychosis commonly anymore in this country because of the availability of treatment,” he said.

The defense plans to wrap up its case on Tuesday, attorneys said.