A judge found a Sanford woman not criminally responsible and ordered her committed to Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta for driving onto a baseball field and killing a man last year.

Two psychologists testified Tuesday in York County Superior Court that Carol Sharrow was experiencing a manic episode at the time. Neither the prosecutor nor the defense team challenged that conclusion.

“The evidence is uncontradicted and uncontroverted that Ms. Sharrow is delusional,” Justice John O’Neil said. “She has an acute psychiatric illness and accordingly lacks a substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct.”

Sharrow, 52, was charged with manslaughter and 14 other crimes for the bizarre hit-and-run incident on June 1, 2018.

Police said Sharrow drove a maroon Honda onto the field at Goodall Park during a youth baseball game. As many as 300 people were at the park that day, and witnesses said she sped around the bases in her sedan and hit Donald Parkhurst as she fled the ballpark. He reportedly pushed some children out of the way before he was hit.

Parkhurst, 68, died on the way to the hospital. His family and friends attended the hearing Tuesday, but they did not speak and quickly left the courthouse. Assistant District Attorney Thaddeus West told the judge that Parkhurst’s son did not feel he could be polite when addressing the court and decided not to make a statement.

Douglas Parkhurst Image from Facebook

O’Neil said he understood that the outcome could be unsatisfying for Parkhurst’s loved ones.

“I suspect many of you will leave here with the sense that justice has not been accomplished,” O’Neil said to them. “But the court is required to evaluate the evidence here.”

Sharrow, wearing a black pantsuit, spoke only to answer the judge’s questions. She told O’Neil that she understood what was happening in court and knew her rights as a defendant. She did not look at the crowd of people and reporters gathered in the courtroom.

At her first court appearance last June, another judge ordered Sharrow to undergo a mental health evaluation and set bail at $500,000. In October, O’Neil ordered Sharrow to be committed to Riverview so she could receive psychiatric treatment and maintain competency while the case proceeded. In November, she appeared in court again to enter pleas of not guilty and not criminally responsible to the charges against her.

The state dismissed three charges against Sharrow during Tuesday’s hearing: elevated aggravated assault, driving to endanger and leaving the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury or death. Remaining were one count of manslaughter and 11 counts of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon.

The primary focus of the hearing was Sharrow’s mental state at the time of the incident. Maine law states that a person is not criminally responsible by reason of insanity if a mental disease or defense prohibits him or her from understanding the wrongfulness of the conduct.

A finding of not criminally responsible is not the same as an acquittal, which would allow a person to go free. As in Sharrow’s case, it means that defendant is then placed in the custody of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

And unlike a typical sentencing, the judge did not set a timeframe for Sharrow to remain in the state psychiatric hospital. She will remain there indefinitely, and her release would be dependent on her progress in treatment.

Two forensic psychologists examined Sharrow on multiple occasions and testified that her history of mental illness was extensive.

Dr. Andrew Wisch, who evaluated her for the state, said he would diagnose Sharrow with bipolar disorder with psychotic features. She was first hospitalized with those symptoms in New Hampshire in 1987. She has experienced periods of remission, the psychologist said, but she was hospitalized again multiple times in the last decade.

Wisch said Sharrow expressed delusional and false ideas during their first interview within weeks of the incident – saying, for example, that she knew multiple languages and played baseball with Babe Ruth. He noted that she had been drinking large amounts of the energy drink Red Bull in the days before she drove onto the ballpark, which could have interfered with her medication for bipolar disorder.

Treatment and medication have greatly improved her mental state, Wisch said, and she is no longer delusional. But Sharrow had only fragmented memories of that day, and she was distressed when she learned what she had done, he told the court.

“Fundamentally, what she did doesn’t make sense to her,” Wisch said. “It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t think she understood what she was doing when she drove the car through that fence.”

Dr. Charles Robinson, an independent psychologist who also evaluated Sharrow, agreed with the diagnosis.

“I believe that the defendant was acutely psychotic, not only at the time these events occurred, but for a rather inordinately long period of time afterward,” Robinson said. “This was a very extended manic episode.”

Defense attorney Robert Ruffner, who represented Sharrow along with lawyer Annie Stevens, said he was not aware of any warning signs that she would act the way she did.

“There wasn’t any one piece of evidence or pieces of evidence that pointed together that somebody dropped the ball,” Ruffner said. “There’s no evidence of that out there, and that’s why it’s just so tragic.”

Parkhurst, who lived in West Newfield, was a Vietnam War veteran and grandfather. He confessed in 2013 to an unsolved hit-and-run death of a 4-year-old girl in New York in 1968. He was 18 years old at the time, and when he came forward 44 years later, the statute of limitations to prosecute had expired.

Megan Gray can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:
[email protected]
Twitter: mainemegan

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