By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
A jury found Leslie Sharp not guilty of the murder of Christopher Cole after over three hours of deliberation last night.
Sharp, 22, was accused of shooting Cole on Nov. 10, 2008 in an act she claimed was in the defense of herself and those around her.
The jury heard nearly five full days of testimony before going into deliberations at approximately 5 p.m. yesterday.
Sharp said she went with a group of friends as they went to confront Cole for allegedly trying to cheat on her friend, Alessandra Inzunza, with a woman named Kayla Huffman. The women drove out to Cole’s friend’s house on Kelly Road where they eventually confronted him at the intersection of Rock Hill Road.
Cole got out of his truck, Inzunza got out of the car and they began “yelling and cussing” at each other, she said. Cole then grabbed Inzunza and pushed her before coming over to the driver’s side of Huffman’s car and screaming at her.
Sharp said he said “(Expletive) you” to each of the women in the car and then pulled out a gun from underneath his shirt and fired once to his right, just next to the car. She said he tried to keep firing, but his gun was making a clicking noise. Cole started backing up toward his car, looking at his gun, when she exited the backseat of the car and raised her weapon — a gun that had been given to her just about a week before by her father, a sheriff’s deputy, for protection.
She said he saw her, raised his weapon and she heard one or two clicks when she began shooting and didn’t stop until he hit the ground. She said she had been trained to “defend myself with any means necessary,” and to shoot “as many times as it takes until I’m no longer in danger.”
Sharp shot a total of 10 times, hitting Cole seven times in his chest, back, shoulder, arm and leg. Despite efforts by the women to put pressure on the wounds, Cole was pronounced dead on the scene.
Huffman, Inzunza and third eyewitness Nicole Tranchina all said that they never felt in danger and that Sharp shot Cole as he was walking away.
Although Dr. Adele Lewis, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Cole, said she could not say with a reasonable degree of medical certainty which position Cole was in when he was shot, former state medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayes said he could.
Based on the autopsy report, statements and testimonies, Hayne said he believed Cole was facing Sharp when he was first shot, contrary to the prosecution’s case and the eyewitness testimonies. Hayne said Cole was likely first shot twice in the upper right chest and in the right thigh roughly at the same time. He said he believes Cole was then shot in the right arm. Then, as Cole twisted to his left and fell forward, he was shot three times in the back — twice in the upper right side, and once in the lower back.
He concluded that Sharp’s version of what happened that night was most consistent with the injuries Cole suffered.
Assistant District Attorney Rhonda Hayes-Ellis argued that Sharp never warned Cole or gave him a chance to walk away peacefully before she began shooting. She said Sharp went out there with the intention of inflicting harm on Cole because she brought her gun.
Defense Attorneys Mark Williamson and Jack Brown maintained that Sharp did what was necessary to protect herself.
Sharp began sobbing and supports from both sides consoled each other after the verdict was read. Sharp left the courtroom a free woman.