PONTIAC (WWJ/AP) – A wrongful death lawsuit seeking at least $1 million has been filed against a 75-year-old Detroit-area woman who was convicted of killing her 17-year-old grandson.
The lawsuit was filed recently in Oakland County Circuit Court against Sandra Layne and her husband by a representative of Jonathan Hoffman’s estate.
Attorney Jerome Sabbota, who represented Layne at trial, told reporters that he’s not surprised by the lawsuit — which accuses Layne of assault and battery, wrongful death, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Layne’s husband is accused of negligence/wrongful death, although Sabbota noted that he wasn’t charged in the case.
Police said Layne fired a total of 10 rounds, striking her grandson six times, including twice in the back, in 2012 in the condo they shared in West Bloomfield Township. Layne said she shot her grandson out of fear during a physical altercation, but a jury rejected her claim of self-defense and convicted her of second-degree murder.
Prosecutors said there were no signs of Layne being injured by Hoffman. A recording of a 911 call shows Hoffman was repeatedly shot while pleading for help – a critical piece of evidence that jurors played over and over during deliberations.
Hoffman was living with his grandmother during his last year of high school while his parents lived in Arizona where a daughter was being treated for a brain tumor. Layne repeatedly blamed the parents for not taking Hoffman back to Arizona and said her grandson’s drug use made him unmanageable for an elderly woman.
On the stand, Layne described herself as a big-hearted grandma who felt overwhelmed when Hoffman was briefly hospitalized for drug use. She said he was loud, coarse and argumentative in subsequent weeks and, on the day of the shooting, had tested positive for so-called synthetic marijuana, which could have triggered a probation violation.
Layne claimed Hoffman feared flunking probation and demanded money and a car to leave the area. Prosecutors, however, said Hoffman was wearing just shorts and socks when he was killed and had made plans to see a friend that night, not flee.
In the end, Layne was sentenced to at least 22 years in prison. Hoffman’s parents said the verdict was “vindication” for their son, whose actions and lifestyle were called into question through Layne’s testimony.
In a letter read by assistant prosecutor Paul Walton, Hoffman’s father said Layne “put on her war paint and came in gunning for my boy.” The teen’s mother, Layne’s daughter, Jennifer Hoffman, urged the judge to show no mercy — calling her mother a narcissist.
“She showed no mercy when she planned, stalked and murdered my son in his bedroom. Sandra Layne is pure evil and if given the opportunity would surely kill again,” she said. “She tormented him for 12 minutes before he was finally killed.”
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