An accused East Bay purse snatcher is now facing murder charges after the 93-year-old woman he allegedly knocked down during a robbery died.
Otto Halafihi was formally charged with murder Tuesday. He is accused of knocking down Anne Pederson while taking her purse as she and a friend were walking into a Bank of America in Concord on May 18. Pederson was hospitalized with a broken hip and died weeks later.
On Tuesday, Halafihi pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and elder abuse resulting in death.
Halafihi's family insists he didn’t mean to hurt anybody.
"He’s a good guy, a wonderful person," said Daniel Halafihi, the suspect’s brother. "My brother is not a killer, to be honest. Yes we are a big people, but Samoans, Tongans we are raised to love our elders and to love others."
In an exclusive jailhouse interview with NBC Bay Area, Halafihi said he was hungry and needed gas when he targeted Pederson and her 64-year-old friend. He says he grabbed their purses but didn’t touch them. He apologized for his actions.
"I’m very, very sorry, from the bottom of my heart," he said in the interview.
Connie Gordon, the other victim, said Pederson had hoped to live to be 100. She’s angry she lost a lifelong friend and says she doesn’t buy Halafihi’s apology.
"I just don’t believe when he snuck up on us he didn’t mean to hurt at least her," Gordon said.
Asked what she would say to Halafihi, she replied: "I’m not ever going to forgive you, I don’t think. I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t believe what you said."
Along with the new charges, the prosecutor is hoping to increase Halafihi’s bail from $350,000 to $1.3 million. He’ll be back in court at the end of the month.