Michigan man set for June murder trial in porch shooting

DETROIT Wed Jan 15, 2014 10:49am EST

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DETROIT (Reuters) - A white suburban Detroit homeowner will face trial in June on a second-degree murder charge that he shot to death an unarmed young black woman who knocked on his door seeking help early one November morning, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

Theodore Wafer, 54, stood silent as his attorneys entered a not guilty plea during a brief hearing before Wayne County Judge Qiana Denise Lillard. Wafer is scheduled to stand trial from June 2 through June 13.

Wafer is accused of killing Renisha McBride, 19, on his front porch with a shotgun blast to the face in the racially charged case that sparked protests in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, and comparisons to the 2012 shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

A judge in Dearborn Heights in December ordered Wafer bound over to state circuit court, which in Michigan hears all criminal cases that could result in prison sentences. He was arraigned Wednesday on charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter and a felony firearms count.

Attorneys for Wafer argued during a preliminary examination in December before Dearborn Heights Judge David Turfe that the airport maintenance worker who cares for his elderly mother was afraid for his life that morning.

McBride had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit for driving in Michigan when she died and had crashed a car hours before, according to witnesses who testified for prosecutors at the preliminary examination.

A woman who reported the crash testified, however, that McBride appeared confused and injured, but not combative. Turfe said Wafer could have called for help or not answered the door rather than going to the door armed.

Wafer called 911 afterward to report the incident and police have said he told officers he fired the fatal shot, but that it was accidental.

(Reporting by Joseph Lichterman in Detroit and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Eric Walsh and Rosalind Russell)

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Comments (4)
gvalentino wrote:
This is precisely why guns should not be allowed. Except for hunting and sport shooting, fire arms should be illegal. This case is so very sad, a girl going for help and getting killed, instead. It’s so ridiculous. I feel for that girl and her family. No matter whether it was an accident or not, she’s dead and did not need to be. Even with the “right to defend oneself” I question what this man had to defend himself against.

Jan 15, 2014 9:42am EST  --  Report as abuse
Crash866 wrote:
What if the defendant owned the gun for the reasons you gave? As mentioned in the article it was a shotgun. Usually owned for hunting or sport shooting. If he owned the shotgun for those reasons then your are ok with gun ownership and then it’s the gun owner not the gun or the gun laws or lack of guns laws that caused this. What he did was wrong but murder II? Michigan may learn Florida’s lesson of overcharging a defendant. My guess is the jury will find reasonable doubt that his intention was pre meditated murder and he will not be convicted as charged.

Jan 15, 2014 11:03am EST  --  Report as abuse
JamVee wrote:
It could have been accidental in the shooter’s own mind.

But, if you open the door with a shotgun in your hands and it’s pointed at whoever is standing there, and your finger is on the trigger, YOUR INTENT IS OBVIOUS! I don’t know that a “murder” charge is justified, but, at the very least, this is 1st Degree Manslaughter, and serious jail time should result.

Jan 15, 2014 12:08pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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