Pot consultant charged in decades-old murder

TACOMA, Wash. -- A local marijuana consultant and activist was charged in connection with a 23-year-old murder Thursday.

According to the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office, 51-year-old Michael Schaef shot and killed Jerald Iafrati during a drug-deal-turned-robbery in May 1991.

On the day of the killing, Iafrati's girlfriend drove him to Schaef's home to buy a large amount of marijuana, according to the Prosecutor's Office. While the two were waiting in their car, Schaef and another man drove up and started banging on the car, demanding Iafrati's money.

According to the Prosecutor's Office, Schaef shot Iafrati through the window when Iafrati's girlfriend started to drive off.

Schaef and the other man drove after the car, eventually crashing into it, at which point Schaef grabbed Iafrati's money and ran, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

At the time, Schaef was charged with the marijuana grow officers found in his house, but no arrests were ever made in the murder.

The case was reopened in 2013 to investigate statements made by Schaef's ex-wife and other new evidence, and Schaef was arrested Dec. 30 and booked into Pierce County Jail. During his arraignment Thursday, the judge set bail at $1 million.

After the arraignment, Schaef's brother said he believed his brother was innocent.

"My brother told me he didn't do it and I believe him -- he's never lied to me before," said Ernest Schaef. "My brother's not a murderer and I'm going to stand behind him 110 percent."

Prosecutor Mark Lindquist credits "good old-fashioned legwork" on the part of the Tacoma Police Department for bringing charges in the decades-old case.

Schaef and his Green Light Expo medical marijuana dispensary made the news last spring for operating a "marijuana bar" above The Stonegate bar in Tacoma.