TACOMA, WA – Today Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged Michael Schaef, 51, with Murder in the First Degree for the 1991 shooting death of Jerald Iafrati. The defendant killed the victim during a drug deal.
"There are basically two ways cold cases are solved. The first is DNA, and second is people talk," said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. "Here, it was good old-fashioned legwork by Tacoma Police detectives who gathered new statements and other evidence. There is no statute of limitations on murder cases and we don't give up until there's justice."
On May 6, 1991, the victim and his girlfriend drove to the defendant’s home to purchase a large amount of marijuana. They waited in their car for the seller. A blue sedan pulled up, and two men got out of the vehicle. They pounded on the victim’s car and demanded money. When the victim's girlfriend drove away, the defendant shot the victim through the passenger window. A chase ensued, and the two vehicles collided. The defendant grabbed the money and fled.
After the murder, a search warrant was obtained for the defendant’s home. Inside, officers discovered a marijuana crop. The defendant was charged for the marijuana, but nobody was arrested or charged for the victim’s murder.
In 2013, the Tacoma Police Department’s Cold Case Unit re-activated the investigation. Recent statements from the defendant’s ex-wife, along with other evidence, led to the murder charge. A bench warrant for Michael Schaef’s arrest was issued on December 30, 2013. He was arrested at his place of employment, where he works as a cannabis consultant. He was booked into the Pierce County Jail on December 31.
The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned today at 1:30pm in Courtroom 270 of the County-City Building in Tacoma. Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Heather Songer, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office