Judge seals portions of transcript in arson, murder hearing

Judge Barbara Mallach decided during a hearing this morning in San Mateo Superior Court that portions of the grand jury transcript in the case of a Half Moon Bay man accused of starting a fire that caused the deaths of his two young children will not be available for public review.

Charles Schuttloffel, 37, a commercial fisherman who was living in Half Moon Bay before being indicted by a grand jury and arrested in March, is charged with one count of arson and two counts of murder in connection with a fire that destroyed his San Gregorio home May 4, 2004.

The remains of Schuttloffel’s sons, Charles Edward “Charlie” Schuttloffel Jr., 3, and William Leonard “Billy” Schuttloffel, 2, were later found inside the home, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher said that a public transcript would be lodged with the judge next week, who will review it and ensure that all portions that are supposed to be sealed have been removed from the text.

“The transcript should be ready for public review late next week,” Gallagher said.

Details of the indictment did come out at an earlier hearing July 23, when Mallach denied the setting of bail.

According to Mallach, evidence from expert testimony to the grand jury indicated that the fire “was not accidental and had been deliberately set,” that Schuttloffel had been the only adult present at the time, and that the children couldn’t have set the fire.

Further evidence showed that Schuttloffel and his wife argued and discussed divorce the morning of the fire, Mallach said.

Finally, according to Mallach, there was evidence that the defendant had methamphetamine in his system, which may have affected his judgment.

According to the district attorney’s office, Schuttloffel was taking care of the children while their mother Lana, a schoolteacher, was at work. Schuttloffel was outside the home in the barn at the time of the fire.

Authorities reported in 2004 that Schuttloffel was injured by the blaze and had to be restrained by sheriff’s deputies as he tried to enter the home to save his children.

Lana Schuttloffel has said her husband was not capable of committing the crime. She appeared in court today and has been at each of his many court appearances to support him.

Schuttloffel remains in custody on a no-bail status. If found guilty of the arson and double murder charges, he could face up to life in prison without parole, according to San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.

A jury trial for Schuttloffel is scheduled to begin April 28.

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