A cold killer, or a woman driven to the edge?

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Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Hoffman was a typical teenage boy. He had lots of friends, went to high school and loved his family.

But, in August 2011, his sister was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Next, his parents, Jennifer and Michael, announced their divorce. However, the couple wanted to support their daughter through treatment together and planned to move from Michigan to Arizona, 2,000 miles away. There, they could get surgical treatment for their daughter.

Jonathan was desperate to finish his final year at Farmington Central High. So he moved in with Jennifer’s mum Sandra Layne and her husband Fred. A retired teacher, with five grown-up children, Sandra had a lot of practice raising kids.

Jonathan Hoffman's Grandma Sandra Layne

Jonathan went to live with his grandma Sandra Layne when his parents moved away. (Photo: PA Photos)

But Sandra soon discovered Jonathan was a drug user. And, on 12 March 2012, he overdosed.

He recovered, but the incident landed him on probation. He had to keep off drugs or he’d go to jail.

Yet, nine days later, Sandra called the police herself. Jonathan was angry and wanting to leave in his car. Worried he’d be off for more drugs, Sandra parked in front of his car, but Jonathan was threatening to ram her.

Police went to the family home and Jonathan calmed down. But not for long…

On 18 May 2012, Jonathan failed a court-appointed drugs test. He was distressed and, on the drive home, Sandra had to stop the car three times to calm him down. Not long after they arrived home, an emergency call was made from their house.

It was Jonathan, 17. ‘My grandma shot me,’ he gasped. ‘I’m going to die. Help!’

Then a gunshot was heard…

An ambulance and police rushed to the house. Sandra opened the door holding a gun and with her hands in the air. ‘I murdered my grandson!’ she screamed.

Paramedics found Jonathan in his bedroom. He’d been shot three times in the abdomen, one in the stomach and in the left arm.

He died in hospital.

Sandra Layne was arrested on murder and firearms charges. She now said that she’d fired in self-defence.

She explained that a heated argument had broken out between them. He’d kicked her in the chest, struck her head and demanded her car to flee after the failed drug test.

Jonathan had attacked her – and she’d shot him. There were no witnesses. Why hadn’t she called an ambulance? And why fire so many times? Ten shots in total. Six hitting the target.

In March 2013, 75-year-old Sandra Layne stood trial. She told jurors she’d bought a gun because she was scared of her grandson’s violent outbursts.

Her defence argued that it was a tragedy that she killed her grandson out of fear.

Prosecutors said she’d meant to kill him….

‘I still love him,’ she sobbed. But were they crocodile tears?

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. The verdict
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