FEBRUARY 3, 1997
Trestle trial brings jurors to site of bridge death
The trial of the man accused of pushing a Mill Creek teen to his death from the Bothell trestle began last week, with testimony from one of the men who was there when it happened.
Michael Schuerhoff, 18, fell three-and-a-half stories into the winter waters of the Sammamish River on Jan. 2, 1996, after going to the site with two young women and five men.
Brian Schrader of Mountlake Terrace, now 18, withdrew his guilty plea last summer after three other youths, Steve Garza, 16, Larry Edinger, 17, and Ben Drake, 16, were acquitted of manslaughter in juvenile court in June. He had pleaded guilty in April.
Based on a taped confession, the prosecution maintains that Schrader pushed Schuerhoff off the trestle on a bet from the other teens after all had reportedly smoked marijuana. The bet included $30 cash and a "ten-sack" of pot.
Tyler Wheaton, 18, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution in exchange for a reduced sentence--from second-degree murder in adult court to rendering criminal assistance in juvenile court. Wheaton's testimony for the prosecution took place last week, when the jury also made a trip to the Bothell train trestle where Schuerhoff died. Divers had recovered his body three days following his death.
The five young men, two women, and another man allegedly drove to the trestle in two cars. Wheaton testified last week that the five, Schuerhoff, and one of the women crossed the trestle and smoked marijuana in the woods. On the way back across, Schrader pushed Schuerhoff from the trestle.
Wheaton said Schrader kept walking, and he (Wheaton) could hear sounds as if water was in Schuerhoff's mouth. No one checked to see if Schuerhoff was all right, Wheaton said. When they returned to the car, Wheaton testified that Schrader boasted he "killed a man for 30 bucks."
Schrader had originally pleaded guilty and agreed to take the witness stand against Garza, Edinger, and Drake in exchange for the prosecution's recommended eight-year sentence for the crime, though the standard range was 10 to 14 years with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.
Schrader then invoked his Fifth Amendment rights at the trial of Garza, Drake, and Edinger and began the process for withdrawing his plea.