Conflicting storylines are spreading rapidly in Philly about the recent Rittenhouse Square murder and who started the fight that turned deadly.
Slain real estate developer Sean Schellenger, 37, was mourned by neighbors and community members in Point Breeze after he died on July 12 from a stab wound to the back. But friends and family of alleged killer Michael J. White say Schellenger was the aggressor and White was acting in self-defense when he pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the back.
White, 20, was working as a cyclist delivering food at the time of the incident, which happened at 17th and Chancellor streets.
Schellenger, 37, CEO of Streamline Solutions, was reportedly in a Mercedes driving down Chancellor Street with two other men when they encountered White, working as a delivery driver for the Postmates app, around 10:50 p.m. on July 12.
Accounts vary and the exact cause of the fight that led to the Rittenhouse Square murder is unclear. At some point, the men got out of their vehicle and Schellenger , a former Penn State quarterback, and White got into a physical altercation. White allegedly stabbed Schellenger in the back before fleeing the scene, leaving behind his bike and a bag of food. Schellenger was declared dead at 11:21 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
White, of the 5600 block of Hadfield Street, surrendered to authorities at the True Gospel Tabernacle church in South Philly on Friday. He is charged with murder and possession of an instrument of crime.
The Rittenhouse Square murder and its aftermath
After news of the Rittenhouse Square murder and White’s role in it broke, supporters of White took to social media to claim that he was acting in self-defense and to claim he is the “true victim.” White is an engineering student at Morgan University in Baltimore who grew up in Philadelphia and is interested in poetry, according to a Gofundme page he started to fundraise tuition money. He had no reported past arrests.
Schellenger has a criminal history including arrests in Chester County and Florida, including a 2008 arrest in Florida for disorderly conduct, battery and trespassing although charges were later dropped. He was found guilty of disorderly conduct in 2009 in Chester County, and previously charged in Chester County in August 2001 with burglary, resisting arrest, criminal trespassing, and theft, although the verdict in that case was unknown, the Inquirer reported.
But neighbors and friends remembered him as a pillar of Point Breeze who helped neighbors set up a community garden while developing and selling housing in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. He played football in Penn State and was due to be inducted into Coatesville’s football hall of fame.
White’s family and friends did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
White is currently detained at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility and his preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 1.