Photo by Bob Oliver
Former Michigan State Police officer David Balash (left) inspects paper targets used to test fire the weapon that was used to kill Renisha McBride, during a preliminary examination of the evidence against Theodore Wafer Dec. 19. Balash did the test firing to investigate the spray pattern of buckshot rounds from a shotgun owned by Wafer.
By BOB OLIVER
HEIGHTS – After two days of testimony in the preliminary examination of the evidence against the Dearborn Heights man accused of shooting and killing a 19-year-old Detroit woman on his porch last month, a Dearborn Heights judge ruled that the case will be sent to trial.
Theodore Paul Wafer, 54, was bound over to Wayne County Circuit Court on the charges of second degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearm by 20th District Court Judge David Turfe Dec. 19.
The second degree murder charge carries a penalty of up to life in prison, the manslaughter carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and the felony firearm charge carries a penalty of two years mandatory consecutive.
Wafer will next appear before a judge for an arraignment at 9 a.m. Jan. 15. Which Wayne County Circuit Court judge Wafer will be arraigned before was not decided by press time.
Bond was continued for Wafer, who is free on a $250,000, 10 percent bond, cash or surety.
Wafer is accused of shooting and killing Renisha McBride, 19, with a shotgun at his house in the 16800 block of Outer Drive about 4:40 a.m. Nov. 2.
During the first day of testimony, seven witnesses were called before Turfe, six of whom were called by the prosecution.
The first witness was Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office Assistant Medical Examiner Kilak Kesha, who performed the autopsy of McBride and ruled the death a homicide in his report.
Kesha testified that a toxicology report completed by the Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that McBride had a .218 percent blood alcohol level in her system, which is nearly three times the legal limit for driving of .08 in Michigan.
He said the alcohol in her system was beginning to metabolize, meaning that the content of alcohol in McBride’s blood was probably much higher earlier in the evening.
Kesha also concluded that there were traces of marijuana in McBride’s system.
Two of the other witnesses were members of the Dearborn Heights Police Department, one of whom was Detective Sgt. Stephen Gurka, the officer in charge during the investigation.
Gurka said that on the morning of the shooting he was notified by officers of a 911 call placed from a house in Dearborn Heights in which the caller stated that he had shot somebody.
The 911 call, made by Wafer, was played in the courtroom.
“I just shot somebody on my front porch with a shotgun, banging on my door,” Wafer said.
Officers and emergency crews responded to the house and discovered McBride’s lifeless body in the area of the front porch of the house.
Gurka arrived a short time later.
“I arrived and was informed that the defendant had signed a consent form for us to search the house, so we did,” Gurka said. “On the floor behind the front door we found a pistol-grip shotgun.”
Gurka said a search of the house did not show any signs that Wafer knew the deceased or that she had been inside the house.
Also called to testify were two women who were near the scene of McBride’s single-car collision on Bramell Street in Detroit which occurred about 1 a.m.
Carmen Beasley, whose husband’s vehicle was struck by McBride’s, testified that she had made contact with McBride after the accident and found the 19-year-old “discombobulated” and “confused.”
“She just kept saying that she wanted to go home,” Beasley said.
Beasley said McBride walked away from the accident three times, the last time walking out of sight after turning onto Warren.
The collision on Bramell took place about six blocks away from Wafer’s house.
What occurred during the time between the collision and the shooting has not been released by the DHPD or the Prosecutor’s Office.
The defense was able to call one witness, former Michigan State Police Firearms Examiner David E. Balash, before the first day of testimony ended about 6:30 p.m.
Balash retired from the MSP in 1992 and joined with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office before leaving there to do independent investigations into crime scenes for individual clients.
Balash testified that after conducting an investigation at the request of the defense he concluded that the McBride was at a maximum of two feet from the shotgun when it was fired and that the discharge went through the screen, striking and killing McBride.
During the second day of the preliminary examination, the defense brought up two witnesses, including a co-worker and friend of McBride, before resting their case and leaving Turfe to rule on whether or not there was enough evidence to send the case to trial.
Turfe ruled that there was more than enough evidence and that the incident would have played out in a completely different manner had Wafer called 911.
“The defendant came to the door with a shotgun,” Turfe said. “His first thought was to bring the gun, not to call for help or not answer the door.”
McBride’s family believe that she approached Wafer’s house after being involved in the collision and that she had gone to house seeking help because her cell phone battery was dead.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])