A machete-wielding man who attacked a FedEx contractor in a predawn assault that was allegedly plotted by the victim's wife and former neighbor was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life behind bars. (The initially announced prison term of 29 years to life was adjusted downward later because of a legal technicality.)
Antonio Cinco Ortega, 26, of Santa Ana, was also ordered to pay $105,000 in restitution to the victim.
Ortega's attorney, Derek Bercher of the Alternate Defender's Office, told Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey that his client would not make a statement at sentencing because he plans to appeal, which prompted the judge to tell the defendant that the evidence against him was compelling.
"In my 24 years on the bench, I don't think I've seen evidence that could be stronger," Toohey said. "Your testimony at the first trial was as blatant a lie as I've heard from that witness stand."
Ortega, who was convicted Nov. 1 of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and mayhem, along with sentence-enhancing allegations of great bodily injury and the personal use of a deadly weapon, was given credit for 1,381 days in custody.
The victim — Frank "Rick" Sharpski — was not present for the hearing but wrote a five-page letter to the judge about how the attack affected him.
A counselor had to help Sharpski write the letter because he's missing fingers on one hand as a result of the attack, according to Deputy District Attorney Lynda Fernandez, who said a nurse has to help him bathe three times a week. His family still needs counseling and he remains dependent on a wheelchair, the prosecutor added.
Co-defendants Michael Calvin Shores II, 42, and Mary Katheryn Sharpski, 50, both of Fountain Valley, are awaiting separate trials.
The three were tried together in 2011, but jurors were unable to reach verdicts and a mistrial was declared.
Shores and Mary Sharpski are accused of recruiting Ortega to kill her husband to clear the way for the couple to move away together to Wyoming.
Frank and Mary Sharpski lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Fountain Valley with their two daughters and son. Shores, formerly one of their neighbors, was unemployed. He moved in with them and helped clean and care for the children instead of paying rent, according to Fernandez.
Frank Sharpski was about to get in his FedEx van to go to work around 5:30 a.m. on March 3, 2009, when his attacker hacked at 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 the assailant to run and leave the victim in a pool of blood, where he collapsed as he tried to run to his apartment.
As the sole provider for his household, the victim — who spent nearly two months in a hospital bed and lost about half of his fingers — "worked long hours and brought his work home," Fernandez told jurors.
"He drank too much and he was mean to the kids," the prosecutor said of the victim, whose children called their father Rick and preferred Shores, whom they called Dad.
Ortega was friendly with Shores, who both liked to dress in black and liked 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 showed the victim's and Ortega's DNA on the weapon, the prosecutor said.
Bercher said the first test of the weapon for DNA excluded his client and maintained that Ortega has had a "frequent problem with nosebleeds" in explaining how his client's blood could have been left at the scene.
The defense attorney also claimed another man — whom he identified only as John C. — borrowed the machete and that one test showed his DNA was included on it.
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.
--City News Service