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Inmate Pleads Guilty To Revenge Killing

San Quentin prisoner Frank Souza avoids the death penalty with a plea deal in the murder of the man who killed a 9-year-old Novato girl.

A San Quentin State Prison inmate pleaded guilty Thursday to fatally stabbing another inmate who was convicted of killing a Novato girl with his motorcycle in a crosswalk in 2009.

Frank Souza, 33, pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Edward John Schaefer in the Badger Section exercise yard of the prison on July 26, 2010, Marin County Deputy District Attorney A.J. Brady said.

Souza also admitted the special circumstance of lying in wait to attack Schaefer, Brady said. Souza agreed to plead guilty to avoid the potential of the death penalty for murder while lying in wait. He will be sentenced to life without parole on April 4, Brady said.

Souza stabbed Edward John Schaefer, 44, seven times with a homemade weapon.

He was indicted in November 2010 on the first-degree murder charge and on two special circumstances -- lying in wait and having a prior first-degree murder conviction -- that make him eligible for the death penalty.

Schaefer was stabbed two weeks after he started serving 24 years to life for second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

His motorcycle struck and killed 9-year-old Melody Osheroff and maimed her father Aaron Osheroff, now 43, in a Novato crosswalk on May 27, 2009.

Souza was serving 60 years to life for the first-degree murder of a homeless man in Santa Clara County. He allegedly killed Schaefer to avenge Osheroff's death.

Souza's defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach said today's plea deal could have been reached nine months ago if the district attorney had not sought the death penalty.

Given the high cost of prosecuting and defending a death penalty case, and the fact that Souza was "never going to be released from prison" anyway, Schwartzbach called the death penalty case a waste of time.

"The district attorney's decision to seek death resulted in the unnecessary expenditure of an enormous amount of time, money and resources," Schwartzbach said. "This deal could have been arrived at a long time ago if the DA had not sought death."

Schwartzbach also said that Schaefer, who had multiple DUI convictions at the time that he struck and killed Melody Osheroff, should have been in protective custody at San Quentin and not in the general prison population.

"He was despised," Schwartzbach said. "If you victimize a child, you're a target."

Bay City News Service

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