Local News

Psychologist: Hit-and-run suspect is dangerous, when left untreated

Posted March 9, 2010 12:45 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2010 6:20 p.m. EST

— A psychologist testified Tuesday that a man accused in a 2004 hit-and-run rampage across three counties is dangerous when he is not being treated for schizophrenia.

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.

“Personally, I would never release him from the hospital,” Dr. George Corvin, a general and forensic psychiatrist in Raleigh, said Tuesday.

Corvin evaluated Shareef at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh two days after the April 14, 2004 rampage.

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.

Shareef has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and his attorneys said he suffered from untreated paranoid schizophrenia.

On the day of the rampage, Shareef had a psychotic episode triggered by schizophrenia, not drugs, Corvin said. The condition was so severe that Shareef could not understand the criminal nature of his actions, he said.

Despite Corvin's statements, he was clear to the jury that there is no way to know exactly what was going on inside of Shareef's head that day. "I don't know with 100 percent absolute certainty," he said.

Over time, Shareef's mental condition improved with medication, Corvin said.

Prosecutors questioned Corvin about the chance of Shareef being released from a hospital if he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Corvin said, considering the violent crime Shareef is accused of and his condition, it would be highly unlikely. "It could occur over a relatively short period of time. But with history as our guide, it's never happened in the history of North Carolina," Corvin said.

Cumberland County Chief District Judge Beth Keever, who presided over Shareef’s first court appearance six years ago, also testified on Tuesday. She described Shareef as “scary” in the courtroom that day.

"His eyes were very unfocused, unblinking," Keever said.

The defense wrapped up its case on Tuesday. Closing arguments are expected to start Wednesday.