Retrial In Homicide Case Ends Abruptly With Plea Change

MINOT, N.D. (AP) — A man being retried in the fatal stabbing of a Minot woman in 2017 has abruptly changed his plea to guilty.

Bradley Morales said he had a change of heart after watching police body camera video of the night Sharmaine Leake was stabbed in the throat during a dispute. The video was played for the jury in court.

“I’m pleading guilty today so that I can be known now that I am telling the truth. I feel bad bro. I am sorry bro. There isn’t anything I can do to change what happened. There isn’t anything I can do,” Morales said in court Thursday.

A jury convicted Morales in 2018 of killing Leake, though the North Dakota Supreme Court later threw out the conviction, setting him up for a retrial.

North Central Judge Douglas Mattson went over details of the plea to make sure Morales, who was acting as his own attorney, fully understood the agreement, KFYR-TV reported.

Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson said she has seen plea changes in the middle of trials but not a re-trial like this.

“It’s been almost five years. We went through trial, we came back. We’ve been in court countless times getting ready for this trial and it’s been continued a number of times. It’s been continued for over two years, part of that was COVID, part of that was other motions that were filed and those sorts of things. Unexpected but relief for the family, that’s what I feel right now,” Larson said.

Mattson ordered a pre-sentence investigation. The state is asking for 40 years in prison with credit for time already served.