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Attorney: Grandmother Felt 'Threatened' on Night of Teen's Fatal Shooting

Hearing for 74-old-old Sandra Layne of West Bloomfield charged in grandson's death is postponed. Father says he 'relented,' when Jonathan Hoffman wanted to stay behind after family moved to Arizona.

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — The 74-year-old West Bloomfield grandmother accused of fatally shooting her 17-year-old grandson as he pleaded for his life during a 911 call spoke softly to a judge Thursday morning to authorize a delay for her preliminary exam.

Sandra Layne, 74, is scheduled to be back before Judge Kimberly Small at on July 2 after Small authorized a motion from prosecutors to test Layne's competence.

Prosecutors say Layne shot grandson Jonathan Hoffman, a senior at Farmington Hills Central alternative high school, multiple times Friday at the condo they shared in Maple Place Villas.

Defense attorney Jerome Sabbota denied allegations that Layne had pre-planned Hoffman's death by asking her 84-year-old husband to walk the family's dog before the incident. "If she was pre-planning, she should have done a better job than this," he said.

Sabbota said Layne felt "threatened" after an argument on the night of the shooting, but did not elaborate on the threat. "Obviously, there was some stimula," he said.

Sabbota disagreed with the prosecution's motion, in what Small referred to as an "unusual" situation.

"She knows who I am, she knows what she’s charged with, she knows what the proceedings are, she knows who you are," Sabbota said in arguing against a competency test for Layne. Sabbota said that the reason for the delay was to allow additional time for discovery.

Small gave prosecutors two weeks to file a motion on the competency testing before making a determination on their entrance to the record.

The victim's father, Michael Hoffman, was in court to watch the proceedings Thursday. Prior to the hearing, he said he allowed Jonathan to stay in the Farmington Public School district after the family moved to Scottsdale, AZ, last summer.

Hoffman's daughter, Jessica, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor after the move, he said. "I thought we should stick together as a family, but I relented," Hoffman explained.

According to Sabbota, Jonathan Hoffman's living situation with his grandparents unraveled at least in part due to his drug use. Sabbota said he believes Hoffman may have been under the influence of marijuana, K2 or Spice, Adderall and psychedelic mushrooms on May 18, the night of the homicide.

Court records show that at 10:38 p.m. March 17, Hoffman was stopped by Farmington Hills police at Bonnet Hill near Aranel in a 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer and ticketed for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia — a marijuana grinder – after the items were found in his vehicle.

Hoffman pleaded guilty to the marijuana charge and the paraphernalia charge was dropped. His sentence included $790 in fines and court costs, and probation for one year — including 30 hours of community service, no alcohol or drug use and random drug tests.

Approximately a week prior to the traffic stop, police responded to the Laynes' home on the 6000 block of Brookview Lane in what West Bloomfield Police Lt. Tim Diamond referred to as a "typical parent/child verbal" confrontation. No charges were filed against either party.

Sabbota and Michael Hoffman both said Jonathan Hoffman knew Tucker Cipriano, the young man charged with first-degree murder in Farmington Hills, but that they couldn't elaborate on the extent of their relationship. Cipriano reportedly smoked Spice the night of the attack on his family.

"They weren't friends, as far as I knew," Hoffman said.

Layne is being held without bond at the Oakland County Jail.

Debbie Thomas May 24, 2012 at 04:44 PM
If father was against the living arrangements for his son he should have just said no. Lesson for all parents. Make the tough calls....
Ronelle Grier May 24, 2012 at 05:58 PM
The father was not "against" it in the way you mean. He did not want to be apart from his son but thought it was in Jonathan's best interests. The teen's mother and father were spending most of their time dealing with their daughter's recovery from a brain tumor. Jonathan had friends, other family members, and a support system here. There were no signs the grandmother was mentally unbalanced. Any of us might have made the same call. These parents do not deserve criticism, especially from people who don't have all the facts.
Debbie Thomas May 24, 2012 at 06:50 PM
The word "relent" does not reflect the above. The formula is easy math: 2 divorced retired parents. One parent stays with sick daughter and one stays with troubled son with cross visits every weekend if appropriate. Parents, stay with your kids until age 18--how else will you know and control what is going on with them?
Ronelle Grier May 24, 2012 at 07:11 PM
I understand your point, Debbie. I have two teenagers. But we all make decisions based on what we know and feel is right at the time. Obviously these parents would give anything now for the chance to make a different choice. But they were not negligent or cavalier about their decision, as some media reports have implied. I spent two hours with them in preparation for a story I wrote for the Jewish News: http://www.thejewishnews.com/potential-unrealized They are grieving a terrible loss, and I hate to see them maligned for a horrific turn of events that was completely unforeseeable.
Sharon Pastori May 24, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Completely agree with Ronelle and disagree with Debbie. I went through a similar situation and I'm still alive and here to post. The kid's future was in Michigan. He wanted to finish high school, not be uprooted to a different school so close to graduation and was ready to attend Eastern. The mother visited him once a month, if I'm correct. He was 17, not 12. This is just incredibly sad.
Ronald Wolf May 24, 2012 at 10:57 PM
I agree with you, the media is relentless and cruel and rushes to judgment but I do ask if the WBPD in the first incident offered the grandmother an officer's, or detective's card in case there was a problem in the future. The Jewish Community in West Bloomfield has many resources and I ask if anyone thought of steering her and her grandson for counseling? Where was his school couselor? Helping out another child whose parents were there to ask for help no doubt. In a community with so many resources and safety nets this is unimaginable. The delusion that "this cannot happen here" is now buried along with Jonathan. The spice drug needs to be taken off the shelves immediately, Before you fill the tank ask if they have any bagged incense, if they say they do walk out and tell them why. As for the K-2 club I ask if this was common knowledge where were was the WBPD?
Katelin May 24, 2012 at 11:13 PM
It is obvious that the grand mother could not handle the teen. She did not want to raise some one else’s child, did not want him in her home and it looks like she felt this was the only way to deal with his threats. The parents apparently had no control over him and left it to the grand parents. It appears the grandmother knew the parents had no control, otherwise she would have contacted the father and sent the teen away, regardless of the fact the teen wanted to stay in Michigan for school- you do what is best for the teen, and leaving would have been best. The parents are responsible for both children even if one child is dealing with a serious illness and even if the parents are going through a divorce. They took their eye off their troubled son for too long. It is a very, very tough job trying to raise a teenage son who uses drugs. It requires 2 strong parents in the picture supporting one another, and especially a supportive father to try to help the son get back on the right path. Plain and simple, being in Arizona is not being there for your troubled teen.
Joni Hubred-Golden (Editor) May 25, 2012 at 01:39 PM
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Debbie Thomas May 25, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Why are the parents so accessible to the media? My guess is they are getting some very bad legal advice. Things like convict granny and tap homeowners insurance. This is what went wrong with the catholic church--they took their lawyers' advice about avoiding responsibility in the abuse scandel. Leave the lawyers out of it. Not their place.
Ronald Wolf May 26, 2012 at 01:18 AM
You make too many assumptions without information. Every human has a breaking point, put that together with being a caregiver a Glock and possibly two cases of a pre-existing mental illness you cannot tell what will happen.
Ronald Wolf May 26, 2012 at 01:23 AM
I totally agree with you. Some bullies never grow up, and some have college degrees.
Susan June 05, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I agree with you Ronelle. It is easy to find someones reasoning as a parent at fault after the fact....that may be human nature...find someone to blame because the end result does not make sense to any one of us. I wonder when the police were called to a "typical parent/child verbal confrontation", how that Grandmother felt when the police left the home and left her to deal with that Grandson on her own? I wonder if she felt abandoned by the most important people that most feel are there to support you and keep you safe.....when the police are called to a domestic dispute and no one is arrested, where then, could she turn for help? What message did that leave with all that were involved? It's ok to act out and no one will help, after all, this is just a "typical verbal confrontation".....
Ronelle Grier June 06, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Susan, you questioned why the police did not arrest anyone when they were called in March. I was told it was the grandmother who sent them away, saying she and her grandson could work this out on their own. The two were arguing outside on the driveway, and I believe it was a neighbor who called the police, not the grandmother. I wonder if we will ever know the real story.
jerseygirl July 03, 2012 at 12:24 AM
i am a jewish grandma...please explain why she had a shot gun...or any gun at all?? i have known alot of Bubbies in my time...NONE ever had or knew what to do with a gun!!!
marilyn morcilio March 19, 2013 at 03:25 AM
It was self defense let her go she is 74 years old again it was self defense only she know what was going on that day and if he took drugs so he try to hit his grandmother so she did what she did to defend herself
Shera Osier March 20, 2013 at 08:15 AM
I DISSAGREE w/you Ronelle Grier. Just BC "we all could have made these same decisions, leaving grandkids w/grandparents, as you stated in earlier post", DOES NOT take from the fact, the grandmother didn't have a right to defend herself. Many people who have been on drugs, during altercations, have seriousally harmed or killed. This grandmother, obviously was terrified of her grandson due to prior instances. The kid kicked her in the chest & hit her in the face this very night. And Yes, I totally believe that. Listen, were not talking about a non troubled, honor roll, volunteering at senior citizens facility kid. We're talking about a very troubled teen,obviously had trouble in the reg/highschool setting, in order to be sent to alternative school, a kid who was just charged with drug possession a week earlier, all the while these frail senior grandparents trying their best to give him a chance & keep him on the right track. He KNEW he could take advantage of them. How do you know the grandparents didn't obtain the gun inititally to have protection for themselves should a situation ever arrise, their lifes are being threatened, by ANYONE. You, yourself don't know that. Additionally, the neighbors called the police during the arguement in the driveway, obviously, becasue they felt assistance was needed, I'm most certain they didn't think the kid was who needed help. The parents themselves should be HELD responsilbe for leaving this troubled kid with seniors. shameful!
Shera Osier March 20, 2013 at 08:23 AM
This 75 year old grandmother and 84 year old grandfather should be able to live their lifes out in peace, TOGETHER, and should of never had to deal with this kid. OH WELL if he wanted to finish school in Michigan. TOO BAD. If the parents CARED about family unity, they would have Stayed in Mich or took him to AZ. And then someone says, "this poor kid, who heading off to Eastern University". Right. This kid was heading off to a life long prison , the path he was traveling. I;m certain at some point in his life, he would have serious hurt OR killed someone. Maybe it could have been one of OUR kids that he could of hurt. Digusting! This grandmother should be released and left to live her life peacefully. Bottom line.
Ronelle Grier March 20, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Shera: You said, "The kid kicked her in the chest & hit her in the face this very night." First, there is no evidence of this. Mrs. Layne did not have a mark on her. No swelling, no redness. Her glasses were on; her make-up was not even smudged. She told the ER nurse her grandson had not hurt her. However, even if had kicked and/or hit her, SHE WAS POINTING A LOADED GUN AT HIM AT THE TIME. As to the rest of your comments, I assume you were not in the courtroom to hear the facts. There were 25 witnesses and more than 200 exhibits, hundreds of facts and details that the jury heard before making their decision. Jonathan was not an angel, far from it, but he had no history of violence. Are you aware that HE called police when he used mushrooms - that is why he was arrested. He knew he had made a mistake. Are you aware that Sandra Layne INSISTED over and over again that she did not want the parents to take Jonathan away from her? It's easy to make assumptions when you don't have all the facts. We all do it. But the jury did have all the facts, and they decided Sandra Layne committed an act of murder, not self defense.
Ronelle Grier March 20, 2013 at 02:13 PM
Also, Shera, it does not matter why Layne initially purchased the gun. What matters is that she did not use it against unknown intruders. She deliberately loaded it and took it upstairs to "talk" to her grandson because she "had to get him to listen." Her words. Also, according to several toxicology reports, Jonathan was not high that day. There were traces of the drug K-2 in his urine, and I'm not condoning drug use under any conditions, but he was not high, crazed, or out of control. He was standing in his bathroom, dressed in only a pair of shorts, getting ready to go out with his friends, when he turns around and sees his grandmother standing there with a loaded gun. And why did she shoot, wait three minutes, go down to the basement, and then come back up two flights of stairs to shoot him three more times while he was on the phone with 9-1-1, pleading for his life. Have you heard that tape? It is heartbreaking. Sandra had many options, including leaving the house and calling the police. If she were so afraid, why did she tell her husband to go walk the dog and not to return until she called him? She deliberately put herself in a situation to be alone with Jonathan.
Shera Osier March 20, 2013 at 07:32 PM
Ronelle, UNLESS you were in that house that night, you can not say with fact certain, that she told her husband to "go walk the dog because perhaps she had something up her sleeve". You also cannot 100% say that he did not kick her in her chest or hit her in her face. Are you aware that, "people can be kicked", and no mark will be evident. I was victim of that. You cannot also say that Layne was in her "right mind", when someone is scared, which I BELEIVE she was, that people do not also think as they otherwise would. No, I was not in the courtroom. That tape may have been heartbreaking, HOWEVER, can you PROVE that layne was in her right mind, after this troubled kid has more than once, given this grandmother trouble. Bc she went back upstairs to shoot again, doesn't mean she was in clear thought process. You, yourself will never be able to prove that. Unless you live inside Mrs. Laynes mind. This kid gave her trouble after trouble, drug addict, and one night terrifies her, and now, bc of her self defense, she has to suffer. He didn;t have to be High to be out of control. He obviously scared her and bet it wasn't the first time. I also find it odd that YOU say he wasn't out of control. Were you there? No. None of us were. BUT we know he was a troubled kid. Who by all means, should have been with his parents, EVEN if the grandmother wanted or tried to help him. What parents in their right mind leaves a troubled, drug using kid with seniors. Responsible? I think not.
Ronelle Grier March 21, 2013 at 12:01 AM
Shera, First, I did not say she sent her husband out because she had "something up her sleeve." I said if she had been truly afraid of her grandson, as she claimed, she would not have sent him away, leaving her alone in the house with Jonathan. No, I can't say with certainty that he did not kick her. But if he did, it was to stop her from using the loaded gun she was pointing at him. She testified that SHE went up there and pointed the gun at him; then he kicked her. I also did not say she was in her right mind. I don't think the average person brings a loaded gun to have a "conversation" so their teenager will listen. But she was evaluated before the trial and found to be competent. If she had been insane, even temporarily, don't you think her lawyer would have pleaded that? He's no dummy. Again I was not there. But Sandra Layne was. And she said on the stand that he had not threatened her or struck her before she brought the gun into the equation. He was upset about his probation violation. He wanted to leave the house. He was yelling, not kicking or hitting. She said she was yelling, too. She could have left the house herself. She could have let him leave and then called the police to go after him. She could have called her husband to come home. I still believe a terrified person does not deliberately create a situation where she is left alone with the person she claims to be afraid of. She testified that he never hit or threatened her or her husband before.
Thea Baker December 13, 2013 at 01:12 AM
is a good for nothing daughter.. The grandmother dying in prison is not enough. People kill me putting the responsibility of their children on the grandparents. These people were too damn old to handle this damn fool on dope. Their are many parents who had to kill their adult children because they were out of control. And if you have never dealt with a out of control dope head you have no idea. Oakland county is wasting taxpayer dollars housing this woman who would never hurt anyone else. She never owned a gun and for her to go out and by one she had to fear for her life. I have seen and have almost been killed by a man who I knew who was strung out on dope. THE PARENTS SHOULD BEEN THE ONES CHARGED WITH ENDANGER THE LIVES OF THESE TWO SENOIRS. if I WAS HIS GRANDMOTHER AND HE PUT HIS HANDS ON ME I WOULD HAVE BLOWN HIS ASS AWAY TOO. I AM GLAD I DON'T HAVE DAUGHTER WITH NO BACKBONE. HE WAS WITH HIS GANDMOTHER FOR THE SAME REASON MOST KIDS LIVE WITH THEIR GRANGPARENTS BECAUSE THE PARENTS DIDNT OR COULDN'T CONTROL THEIR CHILDREN. AND FOR HIM TO FILE A LAWSUIT ONLY PROVES THAT HE IS THE GUILTY ONE. MONEY WON'T MAKE UP FOR THESE LOWDOWN PARENTS. THEY SHOULD HAVE HAD THEIR KIDS WITH THEM, I DON'T CARE IF THE MOTHER WAS ON HER DEATHBED. I HOPE THEY MEET THEIR JUNKY SON SOON. IN HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. SHAME ON YOU ALL. GRANDMA SHOULD HAVE HAD AN ABORTION. WHO WOULD WANT A DAUGHTER LIKE THIS?

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