September 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

Prison term for Dearborn Heights porch shooting brings victim's family some relief

Theodore Wafer was sentenced Wednesday to 15 to 30 years on a second-degree murder charge. (Clarence Tabb Jr / The Detroit News)

Detroit—Theodore Wafer apologized “from the bottom of my heart” Wednesday in a low voice to the family of the teenager he shot to death on his porch.

Renisha McBride’s father, Walter Simmons, wasn’t moved by Wafer’s apology, saying his daughter’s killer “got what he deserved.”

Before Wayne County Circuit Judge Dana Hathaway sentenced Wafer to a minimum of 17 years in prison, she told McBride’s family, “I am truly sorry for your loss.”

Wafer, who wore a gray business jacket and white shirt with a tie and black pants, addressed the judge, saying McBride was “too young to leave this world.”

“I only wish that I could take this horrible tragedy back,” Wafer said, his voice appearing to break. “My family and friends also grieve.”

Jasmine McBride said her sister was a beautiful young woman who had her whole life before her. She asked Wafer why he never before had apologized to her family for killing her sister.

“I find it hard to believe this was just an accident,” McBride said Wednesday. “He needs time to think about why he didn’t call 911 instead of opening the door.”

Wafer was convicted Aug. 7 by a Wayne County jury of second-degree murder, manslaughter and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony for shooting McBride to death. The teen was knocking on the door on the front porch at his home on West Outer Drive near Warren Avenue on the border of Dearborn Heights and Detroit in the early morning hours of Nov. 2.

McBride’s family said she was looking for help after being involved in a car crash about a mile away. Wafer testified he was fearful people were trying to break into his house when he shot McBride in the face with a shotgun through his locked screen door.

Hathaway sentenced Wafer, 55, to 15-30 years in prison for second-degree murder and seven to 15 years on a manslaughter charge. He also was given a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence on a felony firearm charge, meaning he’ll serve at least 17 years in prison.

“It’s a death sentence,” said Wafer’s lawyer, Cheryl Carpenter, who was brought to tears as she spoke of the lengthy term in prison. The 17-year sentence is what the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office recommended.

The sentencing brought relief from McBride’s family, who expressed quiet and guarded emotions in the courtroom and later hugged outside the courthouse. Jasmine McBride, who wore a white blouse with Renisha’s picture, said “losing my sister is one of the most devastating times in my life.”

Simmons said, “not a day goes by that I don’t think about my daughter.”

“I’ll never have an opportunity to see her grow up, be a young woman, have kids,” he added.

In sentencing Wafer, Hathaway, who appeared pained as she spoke, saying “one life is gone and one life is ruined,” said it was one of the saddest cases over which she has had to preside. She said she doesn’t think Wafer is a “monster” and believed he acted out of fear, the shooting was unjustified.

McBride “needed help, and when she needed help she ended up meeting her death,” Hathaway said. “I fully recognized you did not bring these circumstances to your doorstep — they arrived there — but once they did you made choices that brought us here today.”

Wafer, who worked as a laborer, most recently at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, is being sent to the CharlesE. Egeler Reception and Guidance Center in Jackson, where he will be processed before being sent to a permanent prison among the state’s 30 correctional institutions.

Carpenter said Wednesday an appeal will be filed.

The shooting highlighted Michigan’s self-defense law, also called the Castle Doctrine, and in what situations homeowners or residents do not have to retreat if they believe they are in danger of great bodily harm or death.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com
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Renisha McBride