DETROIT – A jury convicted a suburban Detroit homeowner of second-degree murder and manslaughter on Thursday in the killing of a drunk, unarmed woman on his porch last year, rejecting his claim that he was afraid for his life and had acted in self-defense.
Theodore Wafer shot Renisha McBride through a screen door on Nov. 2, hours after she crashed into a parked car a half-mile from his house. No one knows why she ended up at the Dearborn Heights home, although prosecutors speculated that the 19-year-old woman may have been seeking help.
"She just wanted to go home," prosecutor Patrick Muscat said during closing arguments, holding the shotgun Wafer used to kill McBride. "She ended up in the morgue with bullets in her head and in her brain because the defendant picked up this shotgun, released this safety, raised it at her, pulled the trigger and blew her face off."
The Wayne County jury heard eight days of testimony before beginning deliberations. Wafer, 55, could face up to life in prison with the possibility of parole, but it is likely his actual sentence will be much shorter.
Wafer, an airport maintenance employee who lives alone, said he was roused out of sleep around 4:30 a.m. by pounding at his front and side doors. He testified that the noises were "unbelievable."
"I wasn't going to cower in my house," Wafer said.
He said he thought there could have been more than one person outside of his 1,100-square-foot home near the Detroit-Dearborn Heights border. Wafer said he pulled the trigger "to defend myself. It was them or me."
"He armed himself. He was getting attacked," defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter told jurors. "Put yourselves in his shoes at 4:30 in the morning."
But prosecutors said Wafer could have stayed safely in his locked home and called 911 instead of confronting McBride.
"He had so many other options. ... We wouldn't be here if he had called police first," Muscat told the jury.