West BloomfieldJuly 2, 2012
Grandmother’s murder case to go to trial
By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer
The open murder case involving a West Bloomfield grandmother will go to trial, but her attorney is promising that the full story has yet to be told.
Sandra Layne has been charged with open murder and using a firearm during the commission of a felony. She is accused of killing her 17-year-old grandson, Jonathan Hoffman, May 18 at her condo in the 6000 block of Brookview Lane.
Although Layne was 74 on the day of Hoffman’s death, she could face life in prison if convicted of murder.
At her July 2 preliminary exam before 48th District Court Judge Kimberly Small in Bloomfield Township, West Bloomfield police officers and an expert from the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office testified on crime scene evidence.
Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Justin Davis said the “crystal clear” evidence showed the probable cause needed to take the case to trial.
Officer Derick Kassab and officer David Curry said they heard a series of gunshots coming from within the home as they were approaching it May 18.
“There were three gunshots in sequential order, one after another,” Kassab said.
According to Kassab, after police announced themselves and came into contact with Layne, she exclaimed things like “I murdered my grandson” and “I killed my grandson.”
Curry said he discovered a bloody Glock pistol near the front door with one live round in the chamber and several more in the magazine.
Sgt. Joseph Spencer told the court that he followed a trail of gunpowder smoke to Hoffman, who was face-down on the floor in the home’s loft.
Officer David St. Germaine testified that police found spent bullet casings and blood in various rooms within the condo, though the majority of the casings were reportedly found in the loft.
Dr. Ruben Ortiz-Reyes from the county Medical Examiner’s Office described five bullet wounds on Hoffman’s body as seen during the May 19 autopsy, which concluded that the teen died from gunshots in a homicide.
Ortiz-Reyes said three of those shots struck the chest, one struck an arm and another perforated his abdomen. Ortiz-Reyes also talked about Hoffman’s toxicological exam. He testified that a first round of screening tested negative for drugs, but further testing showed evidence in Hoffman’s urine that tested positive for synthetic cannabis.
The prosecution also played a portion of Hoffman’s 911 call in which the teen tells the responder that his grandmother shot him. After he pleads for help, he later cries out that he was shot again.
During the court exam, Layne was dressed in an orange jumpsuit and showed a variety of emotions. At times she waved, smiled and talked to family members sitting behind her. At other times, like after the 911 call played, her face appeared sullen.
During his cross-examination of witnesses, defense attorney Jerome Sabbota described Layne as “hysterical” that day and repeatedly asked police whether they personally witnessed the shootings. The witnesses replied that they had not.
After court closed in recess, he also promised that this was “the first chapter” of the story, and he said he would present much more evidence at trial, which he guessed could happen at the end of the year or in January.
He said his client is a fragile woman who was fearful of her grandson. He said that regardless of what happens in the courtroom, the situation produces no winners. “She killed a kid that she was trying to save,” he said.
Sabbota said Layne will also get a chance to tell her story as the trial progresses.
“Do I expect her to testify? Oh yeah,” he said.
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