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Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - Page updated at 06:00 a.m.
Mich. grandma to be tried in teen's shooting death
By COREY WILLIAMS
With her grandson's terrified screams filling a suburban Detroit courtroom, 74-year-old Sandra Layne sat in a jail jumpsuit with tears in her eyes Monday as she listened to the teen telling a 911 operator he'd been shot by his grandmother.
Tapes of the emergency call were played publicly for the first time at the hearing, during which Layne was ordered to stand trial on murder and weapons charges in the death of 17-year-old Jonathan Hoffman. Layne, petite with graying red hair, was acting in self-defense, her attorney later told reporters.
"I've just been shot. My grandma shot me. I'm going to die. Help," Jonathan yelled into a cellphone on May 18 from the condo he shared with his grandparents in West Bloomfield Township, an upscale suburb.
A few minutes later, he tells the operator: "I got shot, shot again. Please help. Help," before his voice trails off and a woman's shouts are heard in the background.
But it was what Layne told police when they arrived that convinced Judge Kimberly Small to order the frail grandmother to stand trial. Officer Derrick Kassab testified that Layne walked out of her home with her hands up and "screamed to me, `I murdered my grandson.'"
Kassab was among several officers called to the stand during Monday's hearing, and their testimony revealed a bloody crime scene in a community of manicured lawns, quiet neighborhoods and lush green golf courses.
When Layne walked through the condo's front door, "she had blood on her hands, had some blood on her clothing," Officer David Curry said. He testified that there was also blood on a Glock 9mm semiautomatic handgun that officers found just inside the door. Nine spent cartridge cases also were found in the house.
Blood was found on walls and the floor throughout the home. Officers found Jonathan lying face down in an upstairs loft bedroom, his arms at his sides on the floor near a sofa.
"His legs moved just a little bit," Sgt. Joseph Spencer testified.
An autopsy revealed that Jonathan was shot three times in the chest, once in the abdomen and once in his left arm. The teen also had traces of synthetic marijuana in his urine, tests showed.
At one point, Small granted Layne's defense attorney a short break to allow his client to compose herself. Friends and relatives quietly sat behind her in the small courtroom, their eyes also red from crying.
Layne was being held without bond. If convicted, she could face up to life in prison.
After the hearing, defense attorney Jerome Sabbota indicated to reporters that Layne's actions were in self-defense.
"If you listen closely to the 911 tape, he's grabbing onto her and he's holding her. He's not letting her go," her lawyer said.
The shooting was the second time this year that officers were called to the home.
On March 21, officers responded to complaints and found Jonathan outside. Layne told police she was having a hard time because her grandson was very upset and yelling. No arrests were made that day.
Four days earlier, Jonathan, who was a senior at a local alternative high school, was pulled over in nearby Farmington Hills and ticketed for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He later received a 93-day suspended sentence and was placed on 12 months' probation.
Jonathan was living with Sandra Layne and her husband, Fred, while his mother and father were divorcing and living outside Michigan. Neither appeared to be in court Monday.
"This was a child who was dumped on her," Sabbota said. "She killed a person she loved that she tried to save.
"There are no winners. No matter what we do to her, it doesn't really matter. Watch her. She's in her own hell. Nobody wins this case."
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