Detroit-area porch shooter convicted of murder

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Detroit-area porch shooter convicted of murder
Theodore Wafer appears at his preliminary examination before District Court Judge David Turfe in Dearborn Heights, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. The hearing will determine if there's enough evidence to send Wafer to trial on a second-degree murder charge. Defense attorneys claim he feared for his life, but prosecutors say the shooting of Renisha McBride, 19, was not justified.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2013 file photo Theodore Wafer, left, a Detroit-area man who fatally shot an unarmed woman on his porch, listens to his attorneys during court in Dearborn Heights, Mich. On Friday, June 13, 2014, five weeks before trial, a judge hears arguments about evidence in Wafer's case. Wafer's lawyer wants to show jurors crime trends in the neighborhood and introduce photos of the victim with alcohol, drugs and a gun to show her lifestyle. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
Theodore Wafer waits for the start of his trial at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 in Detroit. Wafer is charged with murder in the shooting of a young unarmed woman on his porch. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Theodore P. Wafer, 54, of Dearborn Heights, appears at his arraignment in 20th District Court in Deaborn Heights, Mich., Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Wafer faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Theodore Wafer waits for his preliminary examination to begin before District Court Judge David Turfe in Dearborn Heights, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. The hearing will determine if there's enough evidence to send Wafer to trial on a second-degree murder charge. Defense attorneys claim he feared for his life, but prosecutors say the shooting of Renisha McBride, 19, was not justified.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Theodore P. Wafer, 54, of Dearborn Heights, appears at his arraignment in 20th District Court in Deaborn Heights, Mich., Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Wafer faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Monica McBride, mother of Renisha McBride is seen during a news conference in Southfield, Mich., Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Her daughter was shot on Nov. 2 in the face on Theodore P. Wafer's front porch in Dearborn Heights. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announces second-degree murder charges against Theodore P. Wafer, 54, of Dearborn Heights, during a news conference in Detroit Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Wafer also faces a manslaughter charge in the death of Renisha McBride in the early-morning hours of Nov. 2. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Theodore Wafer appears at his preliminary examination before District Court Judge David Turfe in Dearborn Heights, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. The hearing will determine if there's enough evidence to send Wafer to trial on a second-degree murder charge. Defense attorneys claim he feared for his life, but prosecutors say the shooting of Renisha McBride, 19, was not justified.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Theodore P. Wafer, 54, of Dearborn Heights, appears at his arraignment in 20th District Court in Deaborn Heights, Mich., Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Wafer faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Judge Mark J. Plawecki listens to attorneys at the arraignment of Theodore P. Wafer, 54, of Dearborn Heights, in 20th District Court in Deaborn Heights, Mich., Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Wafer faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Bernita Spinks, aunt of slaying victim Renisha McBride, speaks to reporters outside the Wayne County Circuit Court building in Detroit, on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, after a jury found Theodore Wafer guilty of second-degree murder in the shotgun death of McBride, 19. Wafer shot McBride on Nov. 2, 2013, his porch in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights after she banged on his door in the middle of the night. Spings said the killing showed the danger of the thoughtless use of firearms and didn’t reflect any racial motive by the white homeowner. Spinks said people need to use “the right judgment” if they are going to have guns in their homes. (AP Photo/David N. Goodman)
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By ED WHITE

DETROIT (AP) - A suburban Detroit man who insisted he killed an unarmed woman on his porch in self-defense was convicted of second-degree murder Thursday after the jury rejected his tearful claim that he fired through a screen door in the wee hours because he feared his life was at risk.

No one knows why Renisha McBride ended up at the Dearborn Heights home of Theodore Wafer last Nov. 2, although prosecutors speculated that the 19-year-old woman may have been confused and seeking help, hours after she had crashed her car blocks away. An autopsy found she was extremely drunk.

The jury convicted Wafer of second-degree murder, manslaughter and a gun-related charge after deliberating for about eight hours over two days.

Wayne County Judge Dana Hathaway warned that she would lock people up for any outbursts, and the courtroom was silent after the verdict was read.

McBride's mother, Monica McBride, cried and clasped her hands as if praying. She gave long hugs to prosecutors as the courtroom emptied.

Wafer, 55, who had been free on bond, was ordered to jail to await his Aug. 25 sentencing, despite vigorous objections from his attorney, Cheryl Carpenter. He faces up to life in prison, but it's likely his punishment will be shorter.

"We learned he was a cold-blooded killer," McBride's father, Walter Simmons, told reporters.

"People have a right to bear their arms and everything else, but you have to do it with reason and responsibility," Simmons said. "Not just murder somebody when it's not justified."

Jurors declined to comment after the verdict, and Carpenter couldn't immediately be reached for reaction.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Patrick Muscat said McBride "just wanted to go home" the morning she was killed.

"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," Muscat told jurors, holding the gun.

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 testified.

He said he thought there could have been more than one person outside 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," Carpenter told jurors. "Put yourselves in his shoes at 4:30 in the morning."

Several trial witnesses called by prosecutors described their encounter with McBride after she crashed her car around 1 a.m., a half-mile away in a Detroit neighborhood. They suspected she had been drinking, but she walked away before an ambulance arrived to treat a likely head injury.

Witnesses said she talked about just wanting to go home - a key point repeatedly emphasized by prosecutors as they tried to counter the defense team's portrayal of McBride as a violent woman.

Muscat 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," the prosecutor told the jury.

Wafer is white and McBride was black, and some wondered in the aftermath of the shooting whether race may have been a factor, likening it to the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. But the race angle was hardly mentioned at the trial.

"It's about people with guns who don't use the right judgment before they pick them up," McBride's aunt, Bernita Spinks, said outside the courthouse.

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David Goodman contributed to this report.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

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