San Diego teen accused in homeless woman's death said he was going 'hobo hunting,' prosecutor says

SAN DIEGO — One of two teenagers charged in connection with the death of a homeless woman texted he intended to go “hobo hunting” before the violence, a prosecutor alleged Monday, according to NBC San Diego.

William Innes, 18, faces the most serious count, first-degree murder, in Monday’s charges against the pair in connection with the homicide of Annette Pershal, 68.

Armed with an air rifle loaded with pellets, Innes fatally shot Pershal in San Diego’s Serra Mesa neighborhood on or about May 8, authorities allege.

A makeshift memorial for the victim Annette Pershal in San Diego, Calif., on Aug. 7, 2023.
A makeshift memorial for Annette Pershal in San Diego on Monday.NBC San Diego

Police responded to reports of a woman down in Serra Mesa on May 8 and called paramedics, who couldn’t determine why Pershal was unconscious, San Diego police said in a statement.

She was taken to a hospital, where doctors determined that she had been shot several times with a pellet gun and that the injuries were not survivable, police said.

Deputy District Attorney Roza Egiazarian said Monday that Pershal was shot in the head, a leg and the torso, according to NBC San Diego. One pellet ruptured her aorta, the prosecutor said. 

Pershal was declared dead three days after she was found, police said.

Egiazarian said in court Monday that Innes sent a group text to contacts who included his co-defendant, Ryan Hopkins, 19, according to NBC San Diego.

It said, “I’m going hobo hunting with a pellet gun,” according to the prosecutor.

Egiazarian said authorities found the possible weapon, a Gamo Shadow Whisper air rifle, in a search of Innes’ home, according to station.

Innes faces additional charges of possession of an assault weapon, banned in California, and failure to apply for serial numbers for two would-be firearms under state legislation designed to thwart ghost guns, essentially untraceable firearms that can be 3D-printed.

Hopkins is charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Prosecutors said he drove Innes to the scene, which NBC San Diego described as a parking lot.

Both teenagers, who live in the area, pleaded not guilty after their arrests last week. They remained in jail without bail, according to jail records.

Hopkins was scheduled to appear in court Thursday, when he will ask for bail, said his attorney, Vikas Bajaj, the station reported.

In court Monday, Bajaj disputed the timing of the “hobo hunting” text, saying it was sent 12 hours after the shooting, the station reported.

He described Hopkins as “a good kid with a warm heart.”

Attorneys for Innes and Hopkins did not immediately respond to requests for comment from NBC News.

The San Diego County medical examiner’s office determined Pershal’s death was a homicide. The cause of death is pending, and the office is “still working on the case,” county spokesperson Chuck Westerheide Jr. said.

Homicides by air-powered guns are rare. “The literature on air weapon deaths yielded only three murders in the United States,” a 2019 study by the journal Clinical Practice and Cases in Emergency Medicine found.

Pershal’s death comes as the city’s homeless — a population that has grown beyond 10,000 — face crackdowns by police.

Responding to complaints about blocklong encampments on sidewalks and in front of businesses, the city has taken the hard-line approach, seen in Los Angeles and elsewhere, of essentially outlawing “unsafe camping” outdoors.

People living on the streets also continue to be victimized. In Los Angeles last year, nearly 1 in 4 murder victims was homeless, NBC Los Angeles found.

The state has set aside at least $12 billion to address homelessness.

Residents and patrons of the area where Pershal, known as Granny Annie, was found unresponsive told NBC San Diego she lived on the streets there for at least seven years.