PHILADELPHIA (WTXF/AP) - Murder charges against a 20-year-old accused of fatally stabbing a Philadelphia real estate developer have been reduced following a preliminary hearing Wednesday morning.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has withdrawn the first-degree murder charge for Michael White. White is now charged with third-degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter in the death of 37-year-old Sean Schellenger.
The new charges made White eligible for bail, which was set at $150,000.
Michael White turned himself in to police the day after the July 12 incident where police say White and Schellenger were involved in an altercation. During that altercation, White is accused of pulling a knife from his backpack and stabbing Schellenger, who later died.
A spokesperson for White’s family has claimed White acted in self-defense and had kept the knife in his backpack for protection because he delivered food late at night. Police have since recovered the knife.
Krasner said his office is still investigating and that a video that captured part of the altercation played a role in the decision to amend the charges and not seek a first-degree murder conviction. First-degree murder requires evidence that the defendant intended to kill the victim.
"There is not evidence to support that," Krasner said.
He said the charges could be further amended to drop the third-degree murder count but that he does believe there is enough evidence to take the case to trial.
Several times during the hearing, Krasner spoke to Schellenger's mother, who sat in the second row with other family members.
White, a student at Baltimore's Morgan State University, was working for the food delivery service when he rode upon a traffic jam a few blocks from Rittenhouse Square about 11 p.m. on July 12.
Schellenger was riding in a Mercedes with two friends when he exited the vehicle after it became stuck in traffic.
It was still unclear what started the altercation between White and Schellenger or what escalated the argument to become physical. Police said White stabbed Schellenger once in the back before running from the scene, leaving his bicycle and other belongings.
Both families were in attendance at Wednesday’s hearing and the judge lauded the two families in the case for acting with civility and urged them to continue conducting themselves appropriately. He agreed to a no contact order that prevents White from reaching out to witnesses, Schellenger's family and others.
White will be back in court for a pretrial hearing on Oct. 30.