Photo by Bob Oliver
Theodore Wafer (second from right) waits with attorney Cheryl Carpenter (left) while the jury deliberates Wafer’s fate at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit today. Wafer was found guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearm for his role in the shooting death of Renisha McBride on his porch last November. He will be sentenced Aug. 25.
By BOB OLIVER
HEIGHTS — After several hours of deliberation over two days, the jurors in the Theodore Wafer second-degree murder trial returned a verdict of guilty for the charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearm.
Wafer, 55, shot and killed Renisha McBride, 19, of Detroit, with a shotgun blast through a locked screen door on the front porch of his house in the 16800 block of Outer Drive about 4:40 a.m. Nov. 2.
Sentencing will take place at 9 a.m. Aug. 25 before Third Circuit Court Judge Dana Hathaway, who also presided over the trial.
Wafer is facing possible penalties of any term of years up to life in prison for the second degree murder charge, up to 15 years for the manslaughter charge and two years for the felony firearm charge.
Following the verdict, Wafer was remanded to the Wayne County Jail despite the arguments of defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter, who said he wasn’t a flight risk and didn’t need to be remanded immediately.
At a press conference outside of the courtroom Monica McBride, Renisha’s mother, said the family “kept the faith” throughout the court process and that “justice was served” with Wafer being found guilty.
She said Wafer shouldn’t have taken the law into his own hands that night.
“He should have called 911,” McBride said.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said she was very pleased with the jury verdict.
“We sincerely hope that this brings some comfort to the family of Renisha McBride,” Worthy said.
The high profile case featured testimony from more than two dozen witnesses over nine days, including Wafer, who took the stand as a witness for the defense earlier in the week and described in his own words what occurred that night.
He said he fell asleep in his recliner and was awoken by a “loud banging” outside.
As the noise got progressively louder, Wafer said he first grabbed a baseball bat and then as the noise continued he feared there was more than one person outside of his house so he grabbed his shotgun.
He said that he opened the front door to look outside because his peephole was broken and then something came at him from the side of the house.
“The person come around from the right of my house so fast and I raised the gun and shot,” Wafer said.
He told prosecutors — who asked why, if he was afraid, he opened the door at all — he was afraid that whoever was outside was trying to force their way into the house.
“I didn’t want to be a victim,” he testified. “It was them or me.”
Wafer also said he thought about McBride and her family every day and was “devastated by what happened.”
“This poor girl,” Wafer said. “She had her whole life in front of her. I took that from her.”
Prosecutors attacked Wafer’s story by saying it was inconsistent with the report he gave police after being taken into custody the morning of the shooting.
Assistant Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Athina Siringas said Wafer didn’t tell a 911 dispatcher he believed someone was trying to break into his house when he called following the shooting or that he didn’t tell police that he had first grabbed the baseball bat.
Siringas also highlighted a story by Wafer that he had first loaded the shotgun because his truck had been vandalized by someone using a paintball gun in October 2013, saying Wafer wanted revenge when he heard noises outside his house the night of the shooting.
“You were mad and wanted to handle this yourself,” Siringas said. “You never said anything about being scared.”
In her closing remarks, Carpenter said Wafer’s actions were justified and that when he was awoken that morning he was scared and searched for his cell phone but could not find it, so he retrieved the weapon for his protection.
Wafer said he did not have a land line and later found the phone in his jeans in the bathroom to call 911.
After being taken into custody Wafer told police he wasn’t aware there was a round chambered in the shotgun and that he didn’t mean to fire.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark said Wafer had other options that night of the shooting than firing through his screen door and he that his actions were “unnecessary, unjustified and unreasonable.”
McBride had been in the single car crash on Brammell near Warren Avenue in Detroit about 1 a.m., more than three hours before making her way to Wafer’s front porch.
What occurred during the time between the automobile accident and the shooting was not released during the trial.
A toxicology report taken during an autopsy on McBride revealed that she had marijuana in her system and a blood alcohol content of 0.218 percent, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent allowable for driving in Michigan.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected].)