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Grandmother Shot Grandson and Kept Firing During His Desperate 911 Call: "I'm Gonna Die"

After Jonathan Hoffman, 17, dialed 911 to report his grandma, 74, shot him, police found him face down in gym shorts and socks, with multiple gunshot wounds and a faint pulse.

By Joe Dziemianowicz

On May 18, 2012, 17-year-old Jonathan Hoffman desperately dialed 911.

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“My grandma shot me. I'm gonna die," he is heard saying in the taped call before more gunfire rang out. “Help me! I got shot again.”

Police arrived at the West Bloomfield Township, Michigan residence, where shots were still ringing out. They instructed the shooter, who was identified as 74-year-old Sandra Layne, to drop the firearm.

“Immediately, she said, 'I murdered my grandson,'” prosecutor Paul Walton told Kill or Be Killed, airing Saturdays at 9/8c p.m. on Oxygen. Layne was brought to the local police station.

Officers found Hoffman face down in gym shorts and socks. He had multiple gunshot wounds and a faint pulse. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

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10 bullet casings found after Jonathan Hoffman shot by his grandmother

A search of the crime scene showed blood in several areas of the three-level home. “There were 10 bullet casings scattered throughout the house,” said Walton. 

Hoffman’s stepgrandfather Fred Layne arrived at the residence and was shocked by the events. “Sandra had told him to go and take their dog for a walk,” journalist Ronelle Grier told Kill or Be Killed.

Jonathan Hoffman featured in Kill Or Be Killed episode 101

Police learned that Hoffman’s parents were in Arizona and left him in his grandparents’ care while the teen finished high school.

Jennifer Hoffman, the victim’s mother, was in complete shock. “Nobody would ever think their parent is going to kill their grandchild,” Jennifer said.

Due to her age, Layne had been brought to the hospital for observation. “In the emergency room she told police that Jonathan did not hurt her,” said Grier.

Layne was medically cleared and returned to police headquarters. Before continuing to talk with investigators, she got her lawyer, Jerry Sabbota.

Sandra Layne changed her story to one of self-defense 

Her account changed from the one in the hospital, according to reporter Corey Williams. She now said there’d been “some type of beef” that escalated.

Layne now claimed that Hoffman had threatened her and kicked her in the abdomen, Williams told Kill or Be Killed. “I feared my life. I feared for my safety. So I got the gun,” Layne claimed, said Williams.

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Layne’s assertion of self-defense prompted police to view the evidence with fresh eyes. Layne herself had no scratches or bruises indicating there’d been a struggle.

Sandra Layne arraigned in district court and held without bond

Two days after the shooting, Layne was arraigned in district court. Police and the court had doubts about her self-defense story. She was held without bond.

Investigators looked into Layne’s history. They found that she didn’t fit the profile of a killer. “She taught school,” said Sabbota. “She did volunteer work.”

Detectives also dug into the victim’s background. His parents divorced in 2008. When his father moved to Arizona, the whole family went there to stay close together.

Their lives there were quickly disrupted when Hoffman’s sister, Jessica, fell ill with a brain tumor. Jennifer had to focus on the girl’s recovery, so she arranged for her son to live with her mom.

Once Jessica was stable, Jennifer visited her son in Michigan. “He was happy,” said Jennifer. “But he was smoking weed. I said, ‘Okay, he's just growing up.’”

After learning of the teen’s drug use from his mother, investigators discovered that he had a record. He had been pulled over while driving and found to have marijuana. While on probation for that offense, he was stopped and found to have the drug Adderall.

Sandra Layne featured in Kill Or Be Killed episode 101

Image of Jonathan Hoffman as a troubled teen emerges

The picture of the victim as a troubled child emerged, and that was enhanced by Layne’s claims. She said her grandson “was a kid who had anger issues,” said Williams.

There was an incident weeks prior to the shooting where Hoffman’s behavior became so erratic that Layne called 911, according to Kill or Be Killed.

Layne told her defense team and investigators that her grandson’s actions compelled her to buy a gun for her own safety. “She was afraid of him,” said Sabbota. The situation came to a head on May 18.

The prosecution and defense teams focused on Hoffman’s 911 call made at 5:27 p.m., in which he said he’d been shot. Nearly three minutes later, he was shot again.

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Walton believed that Layne had enough time to consider her actions before shooting again. Sabbota asserted that her wounded grandson could still have been a threat.

Layne can be heard on the recorded 911 call telling Hoffman that she’d get him some water. “That says that she loves her grandson and that she did not want the shooting to occur,” said Sabbota.

Hoffman's mother, Jennifer, told investigators about what she called her “highly dysfunctional family.” She said her mother was argumentative, controlling and physically abusive. She said her father left home and just never returned.

Things temporarily improved when her mom remarried. But when Jennifer had children, the arguments resumed. “Even though she and I were at odds, my children loved Sandra,” Jennifer said.

What was Jonathan Hoffman's cause of death?

A month after the fatal shooting, the autopsy confirmed that Hoffman died from multiple gunshots. The death was ruled a homicide.

The toxicology report cast new light on the case. Lab reports showed that Hoffman was taking synthetic marijuana called Spice or K2.

Layne knew about Jonathan using Spice, said Sabbota. “She had conversations with the probation officer because she was afraid of the way he was acting," he said.

Did 74-Year-Old Sandra Layne Kill Her Grandson?

Sandra Layne indicted for "open murder" of her grandson

Prosecutors ultimately charged Layne with possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. She was also indicted for “open murder,” a combination of first- and second-degree murder, in which the jury may determine the appropriate degree based on the proof.

In March 2013, Layne’s trial began. After opening statements, the prosecution chipped away at Layne’s claim that there was a do-or-die struggle.

They emphasized that she had no visible signs of an altercation. They also asserted that Layne’s instructions to her husband to leave the house showed an intent to kill, said Walton.

On the stand, Fred Layne testified that he had no knowledge that his wife even owned a gun.

Layne’s defense team put her on the stand. She testified that Hoffman kicked in doors in fits of anger and that she was afraid, according to Kill or Be Killed.

“The defense attorney painting Jonathan as this troubled, violent, juiced-up-on-drugs kid was important for their self-defense case,” said Williams.

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Under cross-examination, Layne made a stunning statement about what went down with her and Hoffman. “She said that she grabbed the gun because she just wanted him to listen,” said Walton. “Not that she was in fear. That she wanted him to listen.”

“It was very shocking to me,” Jessica Hoffman said, “because it sounded so violent.”

Walton also poked a hole in the defense’s claim that Hoffman’s use of Spice made him dangerous. The toxicology report showed that Spice was in his urine. “That means that it was not actively influencing him at that point,” Walton said.

Was Sandra Layne convicted of killing her grandson, Jonathan Hoffman?

In the end, Layne was found guilty of second-degree murder. She received a minimum 20-year sentence for the murder, according to Michigan Department of Corrections records, and another two years for a felony firearms offense. 

The jury “didn’t see a 74-year-old grandmother,” said Williams. “They saw a murderer.”

To learn more about the case, watch Kill or Be Killed, airing Saturdays at 9/8c on Oxygen.