Local News

Prosecutor: Hit-and-run suspect made 'conscious decisions'

Posted March 11, 2010 11:13 a.m. EST
Updated March 11, 2010 6:47 p.m. EST

— The man accused in a 2004 hit-and-run rampage across three counties knew what he was doing, a prosecutor said Thursday during closing arguments.

Abdullah El-Amin Shareef, 31, of Raeford, is charged with murder and four counts of attempted murder and could be sentenced to death if convicted.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberating the case Friday.

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. His attorneys have said he suffered from untreated paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the crimes.

Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Rita Cox told jurors Thursday that Shareef acted deliberately and made "conscious decisions" the day of the rampage.

"He's following the rules of the road, waiting for the victim to be alone," Cox said. "Abdullah Shareef picked his victims. ... Abdullah Shareef picked his weapons."

Shareef fled after hitting each victim, knowing law enforcement officers were pursuing him, Cox said.

"He knows he has to leave because somebody will call police," she said. "This is a rational decision to not get caught."

Defense attorney Carl Ivarsson countered by telling jurors that Shareef was experiencing "full-blown psychosis" on the day of the rampage.

Psychologists who evaluated Shareef shortly after the incident testified during the trial that he was psychotic.

"Who in the world steals a city van?" Ivarsson asked. "Why not a Porsche or a Camaro? But a city van with tools in it?"

When Shareef was arrested, he was wearing only a T-shirt and underwear, despite temperatures in the 40s, Ivarsson said. Shareef continued to act erratically in the jail, he said.

"He was a mess," he said. "He was acting horrible, and smelled worse."

Cox noted that, in the week before the incident, Shareef filled out job applications and an application to stay at the Salvation Army. No one in his family or at the Salvation Army thought he was bad enough mentally to call law enforcement or have him committed, she said.

A family friend who is a mental health professional testified that Shareef was placed at a Salvation Army in Cumberland County two days before the rampage because there was nowhere else for him to stay while awaiting mental health treatment.

"We're dealing with the case of a broken mind, not a broken brain," defense attorney David Smith said. "(It's) not a cancer of the brain but a cancer of the mind."