Renisha McBride case: Jury deliberates Detroit porch slaying

Theodore Wafer, at the end of day three of his trial.
(Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)

There is no question that Theodore Wafer was in his Dearborn Heights home, that he picked up a shotgun and opened fire, and that he killed a teenager, Renisha McBride, who had come onto his porch during the dark early hours of Nov. 2, 2013.

The question jurors began weighing Wednesday — after hearing closing arguments on Wafer’s case — is why he did it. Deliberations were set to resume Thursday morning.

Wafer, 55, has spent 10 days on trial in Wayne County Circuit Court in Michigan, charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the highly watched case. Wafer is white. McBride, 19, was African American.

The defense is trying to prove that McBride was forcefully and repeatedly pounding on Wafer’s door, trying to break in, making Wafer afraid that his life was in danger and he reacted by grabbing his shotgun. Michigan law allows residents to use lethal force if they “honestly and reasonably believe” someone is breaking into their home.


In opening arguments last week, defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter said Wafer was asleep in his recliner about 4:40 a.m. on Nov. 2 when he heard a “boom, boom, boom, boom” at his door. The banging was so severe, Carpenter said, that the “floor was shaking, the picture window was rattling.”

Carpenter told jurors that’s when Wafer, fearing that someone was about to break in, loaded his 12-gauge shotgun, opened the front door and fired, hitting McBride in the face.

“It was devastating,” Wafer said in sometimes tearful testimony on the stand this week. “This poor girl, she had her whole life in front of her. I took that from her.”

When asked why he shot McBride, he responded that it was a “total reflex reaction, defending myself. ... I wasn’t going to cower in my house, I didn’t want to be a victim.”

The prosecution has said McBride was just looking for help after crashing her car nearby.

“She just wanted to go home. On Nov. 2, 2013, Ms. McBride, injured, disoriented, just wanted to go home,” prosecutor Patrick Muscat told jurors during closing arguments Wednesday, who then picked up the weapon Wafer used in the killing. “Yet she ended up in the morgue, with bullets in her head and her brain, because the defendant picked up this shotgun, released this safety, raised it at her, pulled the trigger, and blew her face off.”

But defense attorney Carpenter has argued, “It’s not about Renisha McBride, it is about Mr. Wafer. What was going on in his head when he was inside that house.”

Part of the testimony has dealt with McBride as well. She had been drinking vodka and smoking marijuana before showing up at Wafer’s house, a friend previously testified. Three hours or so earlier, McBride walked away from a car accident in Detroit — about half a mile from Wafer’s home.


McBride went onto the porch but what happened next is very much in dispute. Prosecutors insist that Wafer should have called the police instead of shooting.

Wafer “is the one that saw her at the end,” Dr. Werner Spitz, a forensic pathologist, called by the defense, testified last week. “There were no other witnesses.”

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