Trial ends as Minot man pleads guilty in slaying of mother of three

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 3:13 PM CDT
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MINOT, N.D. UPDATE: 8 p.m.: A shocking twist of events this afternoon as Bradley Morales, the man on trial for the 2017 stabbing death of Sharmaine Leake, a Minot mother of three, changed his plea to guilty.

“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,” said Bradley Morales, the defendant.

The change comes after jurors and Morales watched gripping body cam footage from a responding police officer back to the night Morales stabbed Leake in the throat during a dispute.

Morales said it was that video that sparked his change of heart.

“After everything happened, it really messed my mind up, like mentally. I am just now getting right. This whole situation has messed my mind up, I couldn’t think right,” said Morales.

Ruling judge, Douglas Mattson, went over the plea and all its details to make sure Morales fully knew the agreement.

“I just want to go through a couple of things with that you are being self-represented. Do you feel comfortable? Have you had enough time to think about changing your plea?” asked Judge Douglas Mattson, North Central District Judge.

Ward County’s 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,” said Roza Larson, Ward County’s State’s Attorney.

It will be at least six weeks before Morales is sentenced, but for Leake’s family, a form justice has finally come.

Mattson ordered a pre-sentencing investigation to take place which can take up to eight weeks. The state is asking for 40 years with credit for time already served.

ORIGINAL STORY: The retrial in the case against Bradley Morales came to an abrupt end Thursday afternoon, when Morales changed his plea to guilty on the AA-felony murder charge.

In a stunning turn of events, Morales, who had been representing himself at trial, told the court Thursday he wished to change his plea.

A jury convicted Morales in 2018, in the 2017 stabbing death of Sharmaine Leake, though the North Dakota Supreme Court later threw out the conviction.

Judge Douglas Mattson ordered a pre-sentence investigation.

The state is recommending a sentence of no more than 40 years, with credit for time served, which was Morales’ original sentence.

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