Murder charges upheld for man accused of killing sons

A man accused of killing his two young sons in 2004 failed to have murder charges against him dismissed Tuesday, as a judge ruled that a delay in the indictment did not deprive him of his right to a fair trial.

Charles Schuttloffel’s defense attorney Dek Ketchum had argued that critical defense evidence — including the house in which Schuttloffel’s children burned to death — was destroyed during the 34 months it took prosecutors to file charges.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach denied the motion to dismiss charges after hearing several days of evidence and testimony from investigators and Schuttloffel’s wife, Lana.

“The loss of evidence was not due to the delay of the prosecution,” Mallach said.

Ketchum said he hasn’t decided whether to appeal the ruling, and Schuttloffel’s trial remains set for April 28.

Schuttloffel, a 37-year-old commercial fisherman, was indicted by a grand jury in March 2007 on one count of arson and two counts of murder in connection with a

May 4, 2004, fire that killed his sons Charlie, 3, and Billy, 2. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Police at the time said that Schuttloffel had to be restrained as he tried to run back into the burning house to save his children. Prosecutors now believe he was high on methamphetamine and angry about his wife’s threats of divorce when he torched the home.

Lana Schuttloffel razed the house in 2006. Ketchum said she obtained a permit to destroy the building only after being told by San Mateo County District Attorney James Fox that her husband was no longer a suspect in the case.

Mallach ruled that the district attorney was under no obligation to advise Lana Schuttloffel that her husband could still face charges in the case.

tbarak@examiner.com

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