Man Sentenced Nearly 6 Years for Homeless Woman’s Pellet Gun Slaying

Man Sentenced Nearly 6 Years for Homeless Woman’s Pellet Gun Slaying

A gavel in a file photo. (Demetrius Freeman/Pool/Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

6/7/2024

Updated: 6/7/2024

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SAN DIEGO—A young man who fatally shot a 68-year-old homeless woman in the Serra Mesa neighborhood last year with a pellet gun was sentenced June 6 to five years and eight months in state prison.
William Innes, 19, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the killing of Annette Pershal, who police found unconscious on the morning of May 8, 2023, on Sandrock Road.
Ms. Pershal, known affectionately by friends and family as “Granny Annie” or the “Queen of Serra Mesa,” died in a hospital three days after the shooting. She was shot in the head, leg, and torso, with one pellet rupturing her aorta, according to Deputy District Attorney Roza Egiazarian.
Prosecutors allege that prior to the shooting, Mr. Innes sent a message to a group chat that read, “I’m going hobo hunting with a pellet gun.”
Co-defendant Ryan Hopkins then picked up Mr. Innes and the pair drove to Ms. Pershal’s encampment, where she was shot, according to prosecutors.
Mr. Innes’ defense attorney, Patrick Griffin, said after the sentencing hearing that his client “is being punished appropriately” and “has deep remorse” over what happened.
However, he argued Mr. Innes’ co-defendant bore a larger role in the killing than was previously thought.
Mr. Griffin said that unlike his client, Mr. Hopkins knew Ms. Pershal, lived in the neighborhood where Ms. Pershal set up her camp, and bought the pellet gun used in the shooting.
The attorney also said Mr. Innes was not the only one to fire the pellet gun, but prosecutors charged his client more harshly based on the initial information provided to them.
“[Hopkins] is the one who put all of this in motion,” said Mr. Griffin. “The weight of this is all falling on Will’s shoulders right now, when ultimately, these two kids share this equally.”
Mr. Hopkins’ defense attorney, Vikas Bajaj, argued at his client’s sentencing hearing last year that Mr. Hopkins never saw Mr. Innes’ “hobo hunting” message and “had no idea” there was ever any plan to harm anyone.
Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Innes were arrested in August.
Mr. Innes, who was initially charged with murder, was 18 at the time of the killing. Along with the manslaughter count, Mr. Innes pleaded guilty to a felony count of possessing an assault weapon and an allegation of using a dangerous weapon in the slaying. The five-year, eight-month sentence was agreed upon when Mr. Innes pleaded guilty.
Mr. Hopkins, who was 19 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty last year to assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to one year in county jail, plus probation. Mr. Hopkins’ sentence included a suspended three-year prison term, which could be imposed if he violates his terms of probation.
During the sentencing hearing, Mr. Innes apologized to the victim’s family members in attendance.
“I can’t change what happened, but I wish I could,” Mr. Innes said. “That’s the only thing I can say that hopefully will make you feel better about what happened, which it probably never will.”
Ms. Pershal’s daughter, Brandy Nazworth, said her mother grew up in Serra Mesa, and previously worked as a parts analyst for General Dynamics and a seamstress.
Ms. Nazworth said that after her mother became homeless, the family tried to get Ms. Pershal to move in with them in Louisiana.
But Ms. Pershal “couldn’t imagine leaving the neighborhood she grew up in,” Ms. Nazworth said.
Ms. Nazworth told Mr. Innes, “The only good that can come from this senseless tragedy is if you use it to become a better man. She may have looked like just a dirty homeless person to you, but she was still my mom and the grandmother to my kids. ... She was a person, not just a thing to be used for target practice.”
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