Mich. woman, 75, convicted of murdering grandson

Jurors reach verdict in trial of 75-year-old Detroit-area woman who killed grandson

Sandra Layne, left, looks at her lawyer Jerome Sabbota during closing arguments in her trial at the Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Mich.
Sandra Layne, left, looks at her lawyer Jerome Sabbota during closing arguments in her trial at the Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Mich.

PONTIAC, Mich. — A suburban Detroit grandmother was convicted Tuesday of second-degree murder for killing her teenage grandson last spring, as jurors rejected her claim that she shot him six times in self-defense.

Sandra Layne, 75, cried quietly when she heard the verdict, which was delivered during the first full day of deliberations. Layne was also convicted of using a firearm during a felony, and she likely faces at least 14 years in prison.

As she was being led out of the courtroom, some family members waved at Layne in a show of support, but her view of them was blocked by a deputy.

Outside of court, Hoffman's mother, Jennifer Hoffman, said that her mother is a “monster” who deserves to go to prison.

“I'm glad she's put away and can't do harm to anyone else,” Jennifer Hoffman said. “He was a great kid and didn't deserve this.”

Layne fired 10 shots at her 17-year-old grandson, Jonathan Hoffman, striking him six times over a six-minute span during an argument at their West Bloomfield Township home last May. She never disputed that she killed her grandson, but she testified that she did so because he had just hit her and she feared for her safety.

The Oakland County jury could have convicted Layne of charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter, or it could have acquitted her based on her argument that she killed Hoffman in self-defense.

More than once, jurors were played a recording of Hoffman's desperate call to 911 in which he pleads for help, even as more shots are fired.

“My grandma shot me. I'm going to die. Help. I got shot again,” Hoffman told the dispatcher as he gasped for air.

The jury delivered the verdict on the first full day of deliberations.

Prosecutor Paul Walton told jurors that Layne never rushed out of the West Bloomfield Township home, despite claiming to be afraid of her grandson, and never called for an ambulance to help him after the shooting. She claimed that she shot him after Hoffman struck her during a heated argument about money and a plan to flee Michigan because of a failed drug test.

“I wanted him to pay attention to me. He had to listen. It wasn't a conversation. It was arguing. Swearing,” Layne said in tearful testimony last week, explaining why she pulled out a gun.

But Walton pointed out that Layne never complained to police about being attacked. A hospital nurse who examined her after her arrest said Layne had no injuries and spoke lovingly about Hoffman.

Defense attorney Jerome Sabbota asked jurors to view the incident through the eyes of a woman in her 70s. He said Layne was taking care of a teen who had used drugs and brought strangers to the home. Hoffman's parents were in Arizona during his senior year of high school.

“Her adrenalin is pumping. You're not calm,” Sabbota said in his closing remarks. “Boom, boom, boom — you pull the trigger.”