Plea Deal Moves Schalk Murder Case Forward
(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 7, 2014)
In exchange for a reduced charge, a defendant in the murder of Ferndale native Justin Schalk is expected to testify against the other accused murderer, Sean Briskey. On May 6 in the Victorville District of Superior Court of California, Major Allen Austin pleaded guilty to the charge of “accessory after the fact,” a felony that could bring up to three years in County Jail. The murder charge was dismissed.
Austin is now free on a “Vargas waiver,” where he has certain requirements, including violating no laws, submitting to searches of person or property, reporting to probation department, and appearing in court as ordered. He is also ordered to pay a restitution fine of $300. He will likely be sentenced after Briskey’s trial is complete, though he is scheduled for a May 19th appearance for sentencing that will likely be delayed.
Briskey is charged with murder and discharging a firearm which caused great bodily injury and death to Justin Neil Schalk. He also has a prior conviction for a firearms offense. The shooting took place on or about April 14, 2014, though details of the events leading to the shooting have still not been made public. Schalk’s body was found around in a vehicle that was on fire in the open desert near Victorville. San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies later determined that the victim was Schalk. The victim’s family says all they have heard have been rumors, and they too are unsure of what happened.
Schalk, 40, grew up in Ferndale and was active in sports in Ferndale and Berkley schools. He had a strong interest in physical fitness and was known as “Bully” to those who watched him compete in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting. He trained other athletes and was also father to two young children.
Briskey and Austin appeared in court May 6 for what was scheduled to be a preliminary hearing. At this time Austin accepted the plea deal, and Briskey’s attorney asked for a delay because Brisky had retained a new attorney. A new hearing is scheduled for May 14, though it is likely more delays could occur.
During the court appearance, the defendants sat in the jury box, guarded by deputies. They were placed separately, though Briskey repeatedly tried to get Austin’s attention. When deputies moved Austin from the back row to the front, they wanted him to sit by Briskey, yet changed their minds when Austin told them that it was a conflict to be placed next to him.
Briskey remain in custody. Austin is registered as living with his mother.
Deputy District Attorney Joel Buckingham, who is trying this case, said that delays are common in trials, especially when the charges are serious. “Murder cases go to trial 60 days to sometimes three or four years. A lot of it depends on the pace the defendants attorneys. Defendants have a lot of rights in terms of getting information and being able to defend themselves,” Buckingham said.
Though the delays are hard for Schalk’s family, his brother Jerrid Schalk said “We’d like a full and thorough investigation of this, so we can find closure and so my brother’s soul can rest peacefully.”
“Our office has a victims and witness advocates program,” said Deputy District Attorney Joel Buckingham. “But really there is not much you can say or do in tragedy. My brother died when I was eleven years old. I know that losing a child, as a parent, there is no consolation. There just isn’t. Time just numbs the pain. There is no consolation. You want words to make things better. You want to say “it’s okay,” and for that to work. But it doesn’t. You do what you can to bring the person to justice who did this. That helps a little.”
Schalk’s family and friends have come together to raise money for Schalk’s memorial and for his two small children. “The support we’ve received is amazing. There are events in Michigan and California and we’re excited to be able to help the children,” his brother said.
There are also three fundraisers scheduled in the Ferndale area to cover Schalk’s memorial and to provide some care for his two young children.
May 1st – Hazel Park Bowl, 7pm, $20 door fee includes bowling
May 16th – House of Shamrocks, 9pm
May 18th – Rosie O’Grady’s in Ferndale, 1pm, $20 for adults, $10 for kids (includes pizza, pasta, salad etc.)
And a fundraising page has been set up at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/8kNx3?psid=7cef8266b3bf45419a70546c1155e28b.
Plea Deal Moves Schalk Murder Case Forward