Defendant Sandra Layne, 75, appears emotionally affected as she speaks to her attorney Jerome Sabbota after stepping down from the witness stand during a break in cross examination. (John T. Greilick / the Detroit News)
Pontiac — Under cross-examination from the prosecutor Thursday, a sobbing Sandra Layne repeatedly gave vague answers about the details surrounding the shooting death of her grandson but insisted she that she never intended to kill her him.
In contrast to the vivid account she gave during three hours of questioning by her attorney on Wednesday, the 75-year-old was often unable to give yes or no answers to Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Kelli Megyesi about how she ended up holding the handgun used to shoot her 17-year-old grandson.
"I can't answer yes or no to that," Layne repeatedly responded, before finally acknowledging she removed the gun case from a dresser drawer.
"Am I confusing you?" Megyesi asked. "I'm not trying to confuse you. … When you get your gun, it's in its case. Yes?"
Layne blinked her eyes, stared at Megyesi for a few seconds and then responded blankly: "Yes."
Megyesi asked if she took the gun, a Glock semi-automatic, out of the case at some point.
"I must have," Layne said. "I know I must have gotten the gun out of the case ... I'm the only one who could have done that."
After 15 minutes of questions, Layne recalled that at some point she had the gun in her right hand.
She is charged with open murder in the May 18 shooting death of Jonathan Hoffman inside her West Bloomfield Township condominium. Megyesi reminded Layne that when she surrendered to police "the first words out of your mouth were 'I murdered my grandson.'"
And despite Layne's earlier testimony that she had been kicked and hit by Hoffman, Megyesi said Layne never complained of any injuries to either police or hospital workers.
"Your lipstick wasn't even smudged," said Megyesi, holding up a photo of Layne taken by an officer that day.
Layne said she had no recollection of later being examined by nurses at an area hospital.
Under questioning from Megyesi, Layne said she didn't remember making certain statements to hospital employees, including: "He wouldn't hurt me. He's a good boy and wouldn't hurt anyone. I didn't want him to leave. I didn't want him to go."
Megyesi noted there were several phones available, including Layne's own cell phone, but Layne didn't use any of them to call police or dial 911 for help.
In earlier testimony when Layne was asked if she had her cell phone with her, she replied yes. But when asked by Megyesi, Layne said she didn't know if she had the phone.
Layne said her hearing became "blocked" — presumably from gunfire — but she thought she heard Hoffman asking for help, so she returned to the loft rather than flee the house. She said she could not remember if there was blood throughout the house or on Hoffman.
"Did you see blood on the stairs?" Megyesi asked.
"I don't know. I just wanted to see if he was all right," she said, her voice breaking. "I don't know if I saw blood. I just wanted to get up the stairs. ... to see if I could help him."
Layne said she set the gun down but Hoffman tried to get the weapon and there was a struggle in which he grabbed her arm. She said she didn't remember if she fired the weapon or not.
On Wednesday, Layne testified said she bought gun for protection for herself and her 87-year-old husband Fred because she feared some of her grandson's friends who made late-night visits to their condo on Brookview Lane. Hoffman, who had a recent history of drug abuse, was living with his grandparents so he could complete his senior year of high school in Michigan, following his parents' move to Arizona.
On Thursday jurors sent several questions to Judge Denise Langford Morris. One juror wanted to know if Layne was on any medication that day. Layne said she was taking medicine for diabetes and a thyroid condition.
Another juror asked why she didn't call 911.
"All I was thinking was I had to hide. I was terrified," she said. "I wanted to find some place he couldn't find me."
Still another wanted to know why Layne thought showing her grandson a gun was going to calm him down.
"I didn't know what to do," she responded. "I just didn't know what to do. I don't know."
Another juror asked if Lane chased Hoffman around the condo or did he chase her.
"I was trying to get away from him. I was being chased. I don't recall. I don't remember being in those rooms or what exactly happened."
Layne remains incarcerated in the Oakland County Jail without bond. If convicted, she could face up to life in prison. The case was adjourned until Monday when attorneys are scheduled to present closing arguments.