SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Four men charged with murder in the killing of a German tourist visiting San Francisco four years ago pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a case officials said Saturday was difficult to prosecute.
The San Francisco district attorney's office dropped the murder charges Friday in exchange for guilty pleas on gun and assault charges in connection with the 2010 fatal shooting of Mechthild Schröer, DA spokesman Alex Bastian said Saturday.
Phillip Stewart, Delvon Scott and Willie Eason, all 22, and Raheem Jackson, 20, will serve between five and nine years in state prison after reaching separate plea deals in San Francisco Superior Court on Friday, Bastian said.
Despite a grand jury indictment, the case was tough to prosecute because investigators had a hard time establishing who started the shooting due to unreliable witnesses and a chaotic crime scene, he said.
Investigators do not believe any of the four men fired the gun that killed Schröer, prosecutors said.
"The murder weapon was never recovered and the evidence indicates that it is highly unlikely that any of the defendants fired the fatal shot," Bastian said. Seven people initially had been accused in the shooting.
Schröer, an elementary school rector from Hannover, Germany, was in San Francisco to celebrate her 50th birthday and 25th wedding anniversary with her husband, Stefan, when she was shot during a wild exchange of gunfire between rival gangs outside a comedy club in the city's touristy Union Square on Aug. 10, 2010.
The couple were looking for a place to eat about a block from their hotel when Schröer was fatally shot in the head, authorities said. They described her as an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time when gunfire erupted outside a private end-of-summer teen dance party at the comedy club.
The couple were visiting the United States and had planned to leave San Francisco two days later. Two others were injured in the shooting.
Prosecutor Eric Fleming told the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1t8xWs7 ) Friday that the DA's office spoke with Schröer's family before entering into plea agreements with the four defendants.
Of those who had been accused in the shooting, Marcos Blueford, 22, was indicted but had his case dismissed by a judge who cited insufficient evidence.
Gethsemane Pita, 22, faces federal prosecution. The case against Devante Laws, 22, who was on the run during most of the proceedings and was taken into custody in February, is ongoing, Bastian said.