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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia district attorney has dropped the first-degree murder charge for the suspect in the fatal Rittenhouse Square stabbing of a Philadelphia real estate developer. Michael White, 20, is now being charged with third-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the July 12 stabbing death of 37-year-old Sean Schellenger.
District Attorney Larry Krasner says the changes come after his office reviewed cellphone video of the incident where investigators say the pair got into some type of physical argument around 11 p.m. near Chancellor and 17th Streets last month.
“We made a decision here to drop first-degree murder because there is not evidence to support it. We also made a decision that this is a case that should be charged and prosecuted. We do not believe that the evidence supports the conclusion that the case lacks enough evidence to try,” said Krasner.
Police say Schellenger was riding with two others in a Mercedes-Benz when a confrontation ensued with White. Investigators say White, who was delivering food on his bicycle, got into a argument with Schellenger over a traffic issue. A struggle took place and police say White stabbed Schellenger once in the back.
Schellenger’s mother, Linda Schellenger, and family arrived to the Criminal Justice Center on Wednesday morning. She did not speak other than to ask everyone to leave her alone. Krasner says he wants to make sure “her thoughts were considered at every step.”
“Linda Schellenger has spent a fair amount of time over the phone or in the office with us. I wanted to make sure she was aware everything that was happening. I wanted to make sure there were no surprises coming out of that courtroom and her thoughts were considered at every step,” said Krasner.
However, most inside the courtroom were supporting White, who say he was simply acting in self-defense.
“Placed was packed, standing-room only, and with his picture on those t-shirts, he didn’t know how to react,” said Ernest McNear, the family’s pastor. “He was just overwhelmed because this is a frightening, frightening situation for him.”
McNear says this is a good first step in getting White out of prison.
“One thing we have to remember about Michael, he’s never convicted of a crime, never. Never has been in jail like this,” said McNear.
Bail has been set at $150,000 and White will be placed under house arrest if he is able to make bail. A family spokesperson says it will likely be a day or two to raise the money to release White.
White’s next court date is scheduled for Oct. 30. It will be decided then whether to proceed with one or both charges.