OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. (Freep.com) -- It all came down to the 911 call.
"I'm going to die," 17-year-old Jonathan Hoffman told the dispatcher. "Help."
His grandmother Sandra Layne shot him again - this time in the stomach.
Oakland County jury decided Tuesday that was second-degree murder,
convicting the 75-year-old from West Bloomfield after a two-week trial
that included 225 exhibits but ultimately was decided on the teenager's
six-minute call for help.
"They played the 911 tape over and
over again," said Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton, who tried the
case and interviewed jurors after the verdict. "And they arrived at
Walton said jurors - who declined to
be interviewed by reporters - had poignant discussions about the
emotional case but didn't disagree in the end.
appeared to shock Layne, who spent most of the trial rocking quietly in
her chair while wearing the same yellow sweater each day.
"Oh my God," she mouthed to defense attorney Jerome Sabbota as she started to cry.
The highly publicized trial also showed a family deeply divided over the killing last year.
had been living with Layne and her 87-year-old husband, Fred Layne, to
finish up high school in Michigan after his parents, who were divorced,
moved to Arizona.
Hoffman's parents, who never spoke to reporters during the trial, said afterward that they were pleased with the verdict.
"I was happy," his mother, Jennifer Hoffman, said outside the courtroom. "He was a great kid."
When asked what she would say to her mother, she said, "You got what you deserved."
She added: "I know my son is in heaven, and that is a place she'll never see."
the months leading up to the May 18 killing, Jonathan Hoffman was in
trouble - hospitalized after overdosing on drugs and on probation for
drug possession. Sandra Layne's supporters said his parents failed to
take responsibility for him and left a vulnerable elderly woman to
finish raising him.
"I believe the parents were neglectful,"
Sabbota said after the verdict. "If your kid is in the hospital,
hallucinating and tied down, and grandmother calls, don't you get on a
plane? What kind of parent is that?"
The trial unearthed as many questions as it answered about the day Hoffman was killed.
Layne had no history of violence when she shot Hoffman six times during a bloody, minutes-long spree in her tidy condominium.
portrayed Layne as a calculating and controlling woman, angry her
grandson was failing high school and fed up with his drug use and
Sabbota painted Layne as a loving
grandmother who was growing ever more fearful of a teen out of control
and bought a gun to protect herself just weeks before using it. Layne,
in five hours of testimony, told jurors she killed the teen in
self-defense as Hoffman kicked her in the chest and struck her in the
Jennifer Hoffman said there was no indication of trouble when her son was living with Layne.
said she and her ex-husband were staying in Arizona to attend to their
daughter, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent numerous
surgeries at a hospital there.
Jonathan Hoffman's father, Michael Hoffman, an attorney, said his son and Layne were close.
said Layne made "little bubby potatoes and brisket" for Jonathan, her
favorite grandchild. But he also called her meddlesome and controlling.
"She was always a thorn in my side," he said. "I never liked her."
Hoffman said he believes Layne killed Jonathan Hoffman as one last
attempt to control him. It was his son's choice to return to Michigan,
"I wanted to stay together as a family," he said. "Then he went. I expected him to be taken care of in an exemplary fashion."
Michael Hoffman said he believes the verdict has restored his son's reputation.
"It's been tarnished in a cruel way," he said.
Layne is scheduled to be sentenced April 18.
she was led from the courtroom in shackles, her family members called
out, "We love you!" Fred Layne, married to Sandra Layne for 30 years,
wept as the verdict was read and left without talking to reporters.
Jennifer Hoffman said she has no plans to contact her mother in prison and never will forgive her.
When asked whether she still calls Layne mother, she said, "I'd like to call her monster."
Contact L.L. Brasier: 248-858-2262 or email@example.com
L.L. Brasier, Detroit Free Press