Contact: David Chapman
Phone: (904) 255-3004
Cell: (904) 524-6626

March 25, 2022


State Attorney Melissa Nelson announces that Melissa Jo Schafer was sentenced by the Honorable Mark Borello to 30 years in Florida State Prison for her role in the 1999 murder of Saad Kawaf. Schafer previously pleaded guilty to Second-Degree Murder, Kidnapping, Armed Robbery, and Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon. As part of her plea agreement, Schafer agreed to testify truthfully against her co-defendant and then-husband, William Baer, who was previously sentenced to life in Florida State Prison for this crime.

In the early hours of May 17, 1999, Baer and Schafer, attacked Saad Kawaf moments after he left his Deerwood home. Kawaf’s wife, Samar, went to the garage area of the residence after hearing screams and witnessed Baer stabbing Kawaf in a violent struggle. Samar Kawaf attempted to help her husband but was forcefully stopped by Schafer. During that struggle, Samar Kawaf bit Schafer in the arm.

Baer — a longtime detective with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office — and Schafer demanded money from Samar Kawaf based on Baer’s knowledge that Saad Kawaf, a local business owner, went to the bank each week to make deposits. Under the threat of violence and at knifepoint, Samar Kawaf provided them approximately $53,000. Samar Kawaf’s mouth and wrists were duct-taped before the two fled. She eventually freed herself and called police. Saad Kawaf was transported to the hospital but died from his injuries.

DNA evidence was collected at the crime scene and preserved. As a result of recent advances in forensic technology, this DNA evidence was identified as belonging to both Baer and Schafer, who were arrested in July 2020.

The was prosecuted by State Attorney Melissa Nelson and Chief Assistant State Attorney L.E. Hutton.

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