In a dramatic day of testimony in the attempted-murder trial of Mary Sharpski and Michael Shores of Fountain Valley, and Antonio Ortega of Santa Ana, jurors heard from both the victim in the attack and from his 13-year-old daughter.
Sharpski, 48, Shores, 40, and Ortega, 25, are charged with plotting to kill Sharpski's husband, Frank, known to friends and family as Rick, in March 2009. As part of the alleged conspiracy with Shores and Sharpski, Ortega is accused of attacking Rick Sharpski with a machete in an alley outside of the couple’s home and leaving him to die the morning of March 3, 2009, fracturing his skull, severing a thumb and fingers, partly severing his nose and causing several other machete wounds.
Rick Sharpski, 49, took the stand from his motorized wheelchair, a glove covering his left hand, now missing the thumb and two fingers as a result of the attack. He told the jury that as he was leaving his unit at the Valley Park apartment complex in Fountain Valley the morning of the attack, his attacker emerged from the bushes in front of him said, "I'm going to kill you," and began to attack him with a machete.
Victim Identified Machete
Sharpski told prosecutor Lynda Fernandez that he didn't recognize his attacker but that he could remember the attacker's face, at which point he identified Ortega, pointing him out in the courtroom. Ortega's demeanor was decidedly more serious during Rick Sharpski's testimony than it has been throughout the proceedings to this point, and he appeard to scowl as Sharpski also identified the machete used in the attack.
Sharspki estimated he was hit at least 50 times in the attack, with 20 or 30 of the blows landing on his head. In addition to no longer being able to walk, he's now partially blind in his left eye and takes medication for pain, nerve ending recovery and high blood pressure, he said. Sharpski broke down on the stand as he recalled the moments immediately after the attack, when, he said, a Fountain Valley police officer arrived on the scene.
"I just remember him telling me to hang in there," he said.
The jury was dismissed during Sharpski's cross-examination by Ortega's attorney, Derek Bercher, when Bercher attempted to question Sharpski about a dispute between Sharpski and two business associates. Bercher told Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey he was trying to point out other suspects with motive to attack Sharpski, especially after what he called a "bombshell"—Sharpski's identification of Ortega as his attacker.
In his opening, Bercher had told the jury that no witness in the case would directly identify his client, and he argued that Sharpski was being "spoon-fed" the prosecution's theory of the attack even though he'd seen his attacker for only "a microsecond." He had previously spent a portion of his cross-examination questioning Sharpski as to whether he had read about his case online, how much and how often, and if he'd ever seen photos of his client in the media.
Toohey ruled against any line of questioning about the business dispute and called it "nothing but smoke to try to confuse the jury."
Victim's Family Life Questioned
After a very brief cross-examination by Deputy Public Defender Lisa Eyanson on behalf of Shores, Mary Sharpski's attorney, Joel Garson, continued to focus on the Sharpski family's home environment, asking Sharpski about his relationship with his wife and three children. He asked Sharpski about his drinking and about whether Sharspki ever hit the children. Sharpski admitted to being a regular drinker but said he never abused alcohol and never drank to the point of blacking out. He admitted to calling the children names on occasion but said he couldn't recall any considerable physical abuse. Garson asked Sharpski about two incidents involving his son, Matthew, one in which he is said to have hit Matthew with a hanger, and another in which he is said to have choked Matthew with a broom handle. Sharpski dismissed both incidents as horseplay between him and his son.
Kristina Sharpski, a witness for the defense called by Garson, was allowed to testify out of order because she was already in town from Wyoming, where she now lives with Rick Sharpski and Matthew. She testified that she hadn't seen the aforementioned incident involving her father hitting Matthew with a hanger but contradicted his testimony about the broom handle, telling Garson that she had to intervene by kicking Rick Sharpski in the genitals.
Under cross-examination by Fernandez, Kristina Sharpski said Antonio Ortega brought groceries to the Sharpski home after the attack and helped them clean, things, she said, he'd never previously done. She also said she had overheard Mary Sharpski tell Shores and Ortega that she should hire a hit man and said her mother told her not to tell Rick Sharpski about the conversation. She later admitted to Garson that she'd told a social worker that she didn't believe Mary Sharpski was serious about the statement but also told him that was not her impression now.
Kristina Sharpski broke down as she was asked about the relationship between her mother and Shores, and Shores appeared to weep as well during her testimony. She told the jury that she saw her mother and Shores hug and hold hands, and that before the attack, Mary Sharpski told her of a plan to marry Shores and move the family to Wyoming.
Earlier in the day, the jury was shown graphic pictures of Rick Sharpski's injuries taken by Fountain Valley police detective Adam Hertenstein after the attack. Testimony will resume this morning, when Ortega's former girlfriend, April Bivens, is expected to take the stand.