Prosecution reduces charges against teens involved in trestle death
by Jeff Switzer
Prosecutors last week reduced the charges against the remaining three teens connected with the death of Michael Schuerhoff, who was pushed to his death from the Bothell trestle in January.
The three are no longer facing charges of second-degree murder as adults and pleaded not-guilty to charges of first-degree manslaughter in juvenile court. The reduced charge means the teens face a range of 20 to 50 weeks in detention rather than the 10 to 14 years they could have gotten if tried as adults.
"We felt that with continued investigation and statements from (Brian) Schrader and (Tyler) Wheaton, the culpability of these three was considered more reckless than based on intent," said Dan Donohoe in the King County Prosecutor's office.
The prosecution originally charged the five with second-degree murder because, while they heard Schuerhoff cry for help, no one went back to him.
Benjamin Drake, 16, faces a possible 21 to 28 weeks in detention; Steven Garza, 16, faces 40 to 48 weeks; and Lawrence Edinger, 17, faces 30 to 40 weeks.
Brian Schrader, now 18, pleaded guilty at the beginning of this month to second-degree murder, and agreed to testify against the others in the case 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.
Donohoe said that while the recommended eight-year sentence is below the standard range, the sentence does take into account the seriousness of the crime, because the crime lacked intent to commit murder.
In March, prosecutors dropped the second-degree murder charge against 17-year-old Tyler Wheaton in exchange for his testimony against the four other juveniles charged in the case. Wheaton pleaded guilty to first-degree rendering of criminal assistance for his role. Prosecutors recommend a one-year exceptional sentence in juvenile detention.
Wheaton did not participate in the betting and faces proceedings in juvenile court. Schrader and Wheaton are expected to be sentenced within four to six weeks.