The girlfriend of a murder suspect repeatedly testified Wednesday that she remembers nothing about the killing or helping burn the body — and has no recollection of an interview in which she told Hemet police her boyfriend shot the victim.
Felicia Sharp, who says post-traumatic stress disorder affected her memory, was called to testify against Jose Campos, 19. He is accused of shooting 17-year-old Adrian Rios, burning his body in the Campos family’s backyard, dismembering the remains and throwing them in Canyon Lake.
Sharp, now 18, pleaded guilty last year to accessory to murder and was sentenced to six months in juvenile hall and felony probation. She admitted in juvenile court that she cleaned up the blood, stoked the fire while Rios’ body was burning and lied to police about being at the home on Bluejay Way in Hemet on Nov. 15, 2009.
In a French Valley courtroom Wednesday morning, however, Sharp refused to identify Campos, who was in the courtroom, and answered nearly every question during her 45-minute testimony with, “I don't know. I don't remember.”
When shown videotaped interviews with police, she said she didn’t remember them or recognize herself in the recordings.
Days after the killing, Sharp was interviewed by police but released due to lack of evidence. Two weeks later, Campos and Sharp fled to Mexico. They were captured by U.S. marshals in March and returned to Riverside County to face trial.
PTSD CLAIM ASSAILED
Sharp said she was diagnosed with PTSD in October 2010 in a Riverside County facility and didn't recognize anyone in the courtroom. She also said she didn’t remember where she was living now or why she was on probation.
Prosecutors played a jail phone call from last month in which Sharp told Campos she loved him. Phone records show they have talked regularly since his arrest, including last week.
Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky told her PTSD causes sufferers to have vivid memories of traumatic events.
“Do you realize you picked the wrong illness to fake today?”
Sharp maintained she is suffering from a mental disorder.
At one point Strunsky asked Sharp, “Do you think a 17-year-old shot, burned, cut up into pieces and thrown into a lake would stand out to you?”
“I don't know. I don't remember.”
According to a mental health expert who was not in court, PTSD can block traumatic memories for several years. However, acute memory loss usually occurs in children, not adults who witness a heinous crime.
“I’d find it highly unusual that acutely witnessing a murder could cause such a block of memory,” said Dr. Mark Dennis, medical director of the Riverside County Department of Mental Health. “I’d suspect the validity of someone who claims they have no memory whatsoever.”
Judge Mark E. Petersen declared Sharp a hostile witness. The designation gives attorneys more leeway in their questioning.
OTHER KILLER SUGGESTED
Prosecutors said the night of Rios’ death, Campos, Sharp, Rios and another friend, Ivan Ruiz, went to Campos' home to watch a football game. After an afternoon of heavy drinking and smoking marijuana, they were freestyle rapping in Campos' room when an argument broke out. Rios punched Ruiz, giving him a bloody nose.
Ruiz testified Wednesday that he left to wash his face and heard a gunshot about 30 minutes later. He said he returned to find Campos standing over the body.
Ruiz said Campos ordered Sharp to clean up the blood in his room while they dragged the body outside and left to get gasoline. They poured the fuel over the body while Sharp added wood to the fire.
Campos' attorney, C.R. McReynolds, has said there was no witness to the shooting and Campos did not kill Rios.
McReynolds accused Ruiz of fabricating the story to reach a plea deal on an accessory charge.
“You felt disrespected when he punched you and you shot him, didn't you?”
“No, that's not true,” Ruiz answered.
During Strunsky’s questioning of Sharp, he played a recording in which police asked her whether Campos or Ruiz shot Rios.
“So why is it that you think Jose (Campos) shot him instead of Ivan (Ruiz)?” police asked.
“I just do.”
Police pressed her that she never asked Campos during their “escapade” to Mexico, and she said she heard him talking to his friends about it.
“I don't think they really asked him, but he said yeah I—”
“That he shot Adrian?”
“No, he just told me.”