Local News

Hit-and-run rampage killer weeps as wife pleads for mercy

Posted March 18, 2010 2:05 p.m. EDT
Updated March 18, 2010 6:53 p.m. EDT

— The man convicted of running over five people, killing one, during a hit-and-run rampage across three counties six years ago wept Thursday as his wife asked jurors to spare his life.

The jury found Abdullah El-Amin Shareef, 31, of Raeford, guilty of 10 charges Wednesday, including one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case, and the sentencing phase began Thursday.

Talethia Shareef talked about the couple's three children, ages 10, 8 and 7, brought pictures of them to show the jury and read letters from them, causing Abdullah Shareef to break down.

"I hope you win. I want you to come home," one of the children wrote in a letter.

Authorities said Shareef stole a city-owned van in Fayetteville on April 14, 2004, hit and injured three men – Robert Fortier, David McCaskill and Gary Weller – 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 Seth Thompson in Harnett County before crashing the truck in Fuquay-Varina, where he was arrested.

Shareef pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and his attorneys argued that he suffered from untreated paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the crimes.

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

But prosecutors argued that Shareef made "conscious decisions" during the incident, running down men who were by themselves and then fleeing to avoid arrest.

Talethia Shareef said her husband was "a good person" who befriended homeless people before his mental illness changed him.

"I just pray that you can have it in your heart to understand that he was not like this," she said, choking back tears. "This was not him, and I'm sorry."

Abdullah Shareef's sister, Elizabeth Shareef, also pleaded for mercy in the case.

"I ask you please to spare my brother's life and please don't sentence him to death," she said. "You are our last hope."

Bass' daughter also testified about the impact of her father's death on the family.

"Knowing he was down there at the fox pen by himself, trapped under that van, it's just been more than our family's been able to cope with," Angela Barefoot told jurors.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys will meet Friday with the judge to review instructions to the jury, and jurors will return Monday to hear closing arguments and decide whether to hand down a life or death sentence.