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Machete Attacker Convicted

Antonio Ortega faces a life sentence in the gruesome Fountain Valley case, which left the victim in a wheelchair. He was allegedly hired by the victim's wife and her lover.

The hitman who attacked a FedEx contractor with a machete in a plot allegedly instigated by the victim's wife and her lover was convicted Thursday of attempted murder and conspiracy.

Jurors deliberated for about two hours before convicting Antonio Cinco Ortega in the March 2009 attack. Ortega, 26, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 11.

He allegedly conspired with Sharpski's wife, Mary, 49, and her lover, Michael Shores II, 41, both of Fountain Valley, to bump off the victim. The co-defendants, who are being tried separately, allegedly recruited Ortega as a hitman so they could move away together to Wyoming.

At the time of the attack, Frank and Mary Sharpski lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Fountain Valley with their two daughters and son. Shores, an unemployed former neighbor, had moved in with them and helped clean and care for the children instead of paying rent, according to Deputy District Attorney Lynda Fernandez.

Shortly before dawn on March 9, 2009, Frank Sharpski was about to get in his FedEx van to go to work when Ortega began butchering him with a 3-foot machete. The owner of a nearby machine shop shouted over a wall that he was going to call police, prompting Ortega to flee. Sharpski collapsed in a pool of blood as he tried to return to his apartment.

When Fountain Valley police arrived at 5:50 a.m., they found Sharpski on the ground near the carports, bleeding severely and semi-conscious. He was transported to a hospital, where he narrowly survived after several surgeries.

As the sole provider for his household, Sharpski -- who spent nearly two months in the hospital and lost about half of his fingers -- had "worked long hours and brought his work home," Fernandez said during opening statements of the trial.

"He drank too much and he was mean to the kids," the prosecutor said, noting that the children called their father Rick and preferred Shores, whom they called Dad.

Attacker Ortega was friendly with Shores. Both liked to dress in black and enjoyed fantasy and science-fiction novels, Fernandez said.

DNA tests showed Ortega left a blood trail at the scene of the attack, Fernandez said. The machete had been wiped clean by the time it was found, but a spot of blood was recovered, and tests found the victim's and Ortega's DNA on the weapon, the prosecutor said.

But Ortega's attorney, Derek Bercher of the alternate defender's office, said the first DNA test of the weapon excluded his client.

Ortega has had a "frequent problem with nose bleeds," Bercher said, explaining how his client's blood could have been left at the scene.

The defense attorney also said another man -- whom he identified only as John C. -- borrowed the machete and that one test showed his DNA was included on it, Bercher said.

Ortega, who had a job at a grocery store butcher shop and his own car, lived with his mother and aunt and did not need the money, Bercher said.

It was the second trial for Ortega, who had a mistrial declared in 2011 after a previous jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

-- City News Service and Patch staff reports.

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