FEBRUARY 10, 1997
The mother of the teen pushed to his death from the Bothell trestle brought her grief to Olympia recently, adding her voice to those who believe there should be criminal penalties for not helping a victim.
Anita Schuerhoff's son, Michael Schuerhoff, was pushed from the Bothell trestle in January 1996. Of the five teens charged in the case, the pusher, Brian Schrader, was found guilty of second-degree murder last week. But the three teens who egged him on and encouraged him to push Schuerhoff were acquitted.
"The boys acquitted for my son's murder were betting this kid $30 and a ten-sack of weed that he wouldn't do it," a tearful Schuerhoff said. "They were applauding him in the car, leaving the scene."
Prosecutors tried to charge the others as accomplices, but they were acquitted. "We didn't have quite enough evidence to get over the line," said King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng, who joined Schuerhoff before the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee in testifying for the "Joey Levick Act."
There are currently more than 100,000 supporters for the bill, named for a murder victim from the Highline area who died under circumstances similar to the Schuerhoff case. If passed, the law would create criminal penalties for individuals who fail to give reasonable assistance to a person who has suffered substantial bodily harm, charging them with a misdemeanor ranging from zero to 90 days. Also, those who know a crime has taken place and do nothing to help the victim could be charged with a Class-C felony or a gross misdemeanor, sentences ranging from six to 12 months.
According to Maleng, the bill could be a tool for prosecutors in the future and could have been used in the Levick and Schuerhoff cases.
Rep. Dave Schmidt (R-Bothell) knew Michael Schuerhoff as a neighbor at the time of the murder. "What happened to Mike was terrible and sad," said Schmidt. "There is no excuse for what was done to him. The truly unfortunate thing in Mike's case, and in the case of Joey Levick, is the lingering, disturbing feeling that something could have been done to save them. That is a torment no parent should have to endure."
The committee unanimously approved the bill 12-0. It now moves to the House Rules Committee for consideration and scheduling for a vote by the full House.