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Suspect in hacking death changes plea

Calvin Sharp pleads not guilty by reason of insanity in the meat-cleaver attack on a 6-year-old Thousand Oaks boy in 2007. A hearing will be held to determine if he was sane on Jan. 11.

November 11, 2009|Catherine Saillant

A man who allegedly hacked a 6-year-old Thousand Oaks boy to death with a meat cleaver as his mother and terrified neighbors fought to save him has changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.

Calvin Sharp's attorney Friday told a Ventura County courtroom that the cabdriver was insane when he killed Sev'n Molina in 2007 outside an apartment complex where the boy lived with his mother, a gruesome slaying that shook Thousand Oaks.

Todd Howeth, Sharp's deputy public defender, said his client withdrew not-guilty pleas and admitted killing Sev'n and attempting to kill the boy's mother, Sandra Ruiz, and Diane Cox, a neighbor who intervened in the attack.

He also pleaded guilty to animal cruelty for killing his dog on the same night, the attorney said. Howeth declined further comment. The new pleas came as jury selection in Sharp's trial was getting underway.

Instead of a trial, the case will now move to hearings on Sharp's sanity, set to begin Jan. 11 in Ventura.

In court documents and hearings, Howeth has argued that Sharp was exhibiting psychotic behavior on the night of the killing. He was rambling incoherently when deputies took him into custody, court records show, and told them that he had received radio messages to kill the boy.

Prosecutor Maeve Fox said she has "a lot of evidence" to rebut the defense's contention that Sharp was insane but declined to go into detail.

Sharp, 30, has been held in Ventura County Jail since the Aug. 12, 2007, attack.

Sharp and Ruiz had broken up several months before the night he showed up at Ruiz's apartment and began arguing with her, authorities said.

At some point, authorities said, he grabbed a meat cleaver and went after Ruiz's son, who ran out of the apartment to a nearby courtyard. There, in front of stunned neighbors and the boy's mother, police said Sharp began slashing the boy.

Ruiz was critically injured as she tried to stop the attack. Cox suffered facial wounds but managed to tackle Sharp and hold him down with another neighbor until police arrived. By then, Sev'n was dead.

Last week's pleas means that the court now has only one issue to resolve: Sharp's sanity at the time of the attack, Fox said.

If Sharp is found insane, he will be committed to a psychiatric facility, the prosecutor said. He wouldn't be eligible for release unless a court finds that his sanity has been restored, she said. If the judge determines that Sharp was sane, Fox said, he will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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