Morales pleads not guilty to murdering ex-girlfriend

A 27-year-old Minot man pleaded not guilty Thursday to the murder of his ex-girlfriend last August and indicated he wants a speedy trial.

Bradley Joe Morales is accused of stabbing 25-year-old Sharmaine Leake in the neck during a domestic altercation early on the morning of Aug. 16, 2017 at a southeast Minot residence. Leake never regained consciousness and died at Trinity Hospital on Aug. 22, 2017. Leake was not referred to by name at Thursday’s court hearing, but the Minot police previously identified her as Leake.

During a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Minot Police Detective Cole Strandemo testified that Morales told police he had sneaked into Leake’s residence and the two had argued over a cell phone. The cell phone rang and another man spoke. Morales told police he thought the other man might be planning to come over to Leake’s residence and became angry and grabbed a knife from the kitchen. Morales told police he was going out to his vehicle to retrieve a pair of shoes and Leake followed him, screaming at him. They had a confrontation on the stairs and Leake was stabbed in the neck. Morales then saw Leake running around the house with blood squirting from her neck.

Under cross-examination from Morales’ defense attorney, Steven Mottinger, Strandemo acknowledged that Morales made reference to Leake “passing by” him and said he had just wanted to scare her and didn’t intend to harm her. On 911 calls, Strandemo testified that Morales can be heard saying, “I’m so sorry, Mama” and “When that man called, I just lost it.”

When police arrived at Leake’s residence, she was found near the front entrance. Morales was administering first aid. According to the probable cause affidavit filed with the court, Morales pressed a kitchen towel to the wound and called 911.

Strandemo testified that the children of Morales and Leake were in the residence at the time of the altercation. The three children were taken to a neighbor’s house after their mother was stabbed and their father was arrested. Morales was ordered to have no contact with the children or their grandmother.

Police performed CPR on Leake when they arrived and she was then taken to the hospital. Defense attorney Mottinger questioned whether CPR was the best treatment under the circumstances in his cross-examination. He also noted that an autopsy on Leake indicated that her condition was complicated by a stroke she suffered.

According to court documents, doctors reported on Aug. 18, 2017 that Leake had no brain function. Leake’s mother called Strandemo on Aug. 22, 2017 and told him that the family had taken Leake off life support.

Mottinger indicated that Morales wants a speedy trial. The state and the defense agree that the trial will take about a week. Mattson said an April or May trial date is likely.

Morales had previously been convicted on different occasions of assaulting Leake, according to court records.