Fire case delay questioned 

Prosecutors violated a Half Moon Bay father’s right to due process by waiting 34 months after his two sons died in a fire to indict him for murder, his defense attorney argued in a motion filed last week to dismiss the case.

A judge will hear the arguments March 28, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Dek Ketchum, attorney for Charles Schuttloffel, claims an undue delay has decreased the likelihood of Schuttloffel receiving a fair trial.

On Friday, Wagstaffe said prosecutors were actively working on the case during those 34 months.

Schuttloffel, a commercial fisherman, was indicted by a grand jury in March 2007 on one count of arson and two counts of murder.

His trial is scheduled for April 28.

A fire destroyed Schuttloffel’s San Gregorio home May 4, 2004, killing 3-year-old Charles "Charlie" Schuttloffel Jr. and 2-year-old William "Billy" Schuttloffel.

Authorities at the time said Schuttloffel had to be restrained as he tried to run back into the burning house to save his children.

Prosecutors now say that Schuttloffel was high on methamphetamine and angry over his wife’s threats to divorce him when he set the house ablaze and fled to the family’s barn.

"The reason for the delay was that there was a fairly constant and ongoing investigation to show who was responsible for this," Wagstaffe said. "It remained open and finally reached a level where we thought there was enough evidence to file charges."

tbarak@examiner.com

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