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Teen pleads guilty in trestle slaying, faces eight years

guilty plea by Jeff Switzer
The Mountlake Terrace teen charged with the drowning death of 18-year-old Michael Schuerhoff, who was allegedly pushed off the Bothell trestle on Jan. 2, has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution in exchange for a sentence about half the standard range.
   Brian Schrader, now 18, pleaded guilty last week to second-degree murder in exchange for the prosecution's recommended eight-year sentence for the crime. The standard range for the offense is 12 to 16 years with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.
   "On a dare from co-defendants (Lawrence) Edinger, (Steven) Garza, and (Benjamin) Drake, I intentionally pushed Michael Schuerhoff from the Bothell trestle into the water some 36 feet below," Schrader said in a statement.
   Dan Donohoe, spokesperson for the King County Prosecutor's Office, said that while the recommended eight-year sentence is below the standard range, because the crime lacked intent to commit murder, the sentence does take into account the seriousness of the crime.
   The prosecution contends that when Schuerhoff got to the mid-span of the trestle, Schrader grabbed him and shoved him over the edge in exchange for bets totaling about $30 and a sack of marijuana. Schuerhoff fell backwards and dropped 36 feet into the 39-degree Sammamish River. According to prosecutors, Wheaton, Edinger, and Garza heard the splash and Schuerhoff's cry for help, sounding like he had water in his mouth, but none of them came to his aid.
   His body was found Jan. 5 by King County Police and Renton Fire department divers 200 feet downstream in about eight feet of water. The cause of Schuerhoff's death was determined to be drowning.
   In March, prosecutors dropped the second-degree murder charge against Tyler Wheaton, 17, in exchange for his testimony against the four other juveniles charged in the case. Wheaton pleaded guilty to first-degree rendering of criminal assistance. Prosecutors recommend a one-year exceptional sentence in juvenile detention. Wheaton did not participate in the betting and faces proceedings in juvenile court.
   Drake, Garza, Edinger, Wheaton, and Schrader remain in custody. The defendants have histories of juvenile adjudications in Snohomish County for first-degree burglary, second-degree assault, possession of stolen property and theft, and Mountlake Terrace Police have documented gang association for one of the defendants. The trial for Drake, Edinger, and Garza is scheduled May 24.

The fate of the trestle
   The Bothell City Council has tentatively agreed to allocate funds to upgrade the trestle and is expected within the next few weeks to finalize an interlocal agreement with King County for the project.
   Bothell has indicated it has no interest in gaining ownership of the trestle, but is leaning towards the county option that would add smooth concrete decking and a 42-inch railing to the trestle for about $138,000.
   Costs of demolishing the trestle or upgrading it are similar: about $139,000 to demolish it ($89,000 for the county to take it out, plus $50,000 for the City of Bothell to relocate the sewer line which runs underneath it); or $138,000 to add a concrete bridge deck and 42-inch-high railings.
   Upgrading the trestle would provide a trail link between the Burke-Gilman Trail and Blyth Park, and would also serve as part of a trail loop that has been a part of the city's long-term Parks Plan. The loop would incorporate the trail, the trestle, the bridge east of the trestle, and the railroad right-of-way on the south side of the Sammamish River.