Two teenagers from San Diego have been arrested and charged in relation to the death of a homeless woman, Annette Pershal, 68, who was found unresponsive in May. Pershal was taken to the hospital but succumbed to her injuries three days later. The cause of death was determined to be wounds from a pellet gun, which were deemed “non-survivable” by medical professionals. The San Diego police have classified the case as a homicide.
William Innes, 18, and Ryan Hopkins, 19, were taken into custody last week. Innes faces charges of first-degree murder, possession of an assault weapon, and failure to register two firearms, as required by state law. Hopkins is charged with assault with a deadly weapon, with prosecutors alleging that he drove Innes to the scene of the crime. Both teenagers have pleaded not guilty to all charges and are currently being held in jail.
Evidence presented in court included a group text message from Innes, stating his intention to go “hobo hunting with a pellet gun.” Pershal, who was living in a homeless encampment on Sandrock Road at the time of her death, suffered pellet wounds to her head, leg, and torso. One of the pellets reportedly ruptured her aorta. The suspected murder weapon, an air rifle loaded with pellets, was found in Innes’ home.
San Diego has been grappling with a growing homeless crisis, with makeshift encampments appearing throughout the city. In response, the city opened the first of two “safe sleeping” areas in early July. The new site, located at San Diego’s Central Operations Yard, is enclosed by a barbed-wire fence and can accommodate up to 150 people in 136 tents. The site is managed by the nonprofit organization Dreams for Change, which also oversees “safe parking” sites for individuals living in vehicles.
The shelter is described as a “low barrier” facility, prohibiting weapons, alcohol, and drugs, but not requiring sobriety for entry. Amenities include restrooms, meals, and mobile showers. According to recent data, the number of people living outdoors in San Diego has reached over 2,100, the highest in more than a decade. In response, Mayor Todd Gloria has proposed a city budget that includes $81.7 million for homeless services, a nearly $20 million increase from the last fiscal year.