(NEW YORK) — For the first time in his first degree murder trial, jurors, along with the community that continues to stand behind him, heard from Jeffrey Pyne, the former high school valedictorian who is accused of bludgeoning his mother to death in the family’s garage.
Pyne, a former star athlete and University of Michigan biology student, is accused of the murder of his mentally ill mother Ruth Pyne, 51, who was viciously beaten and stabbed 16 times in the family’s Highland Township, Mich., garage in May 2011.
On Wednesday, the court first heard from Jeffrey, 22, viewing tapes of interviews with him taken by police after his mother’s murder.
“Someone killed your mom. It’s not an accident,” Detective Sgt. David Hendrix is heard saying on the tape, as Jeffrey is seen putting his hands over his face. When Hendrix asks Jeffrey if he did anything that day to hurt his mom, Jeffrey says, “No … no.”
Friends and neighbors in the tightly-knit Highland Township community refuse to believe Jeffrey killed his mother. But prosecutors say he had motive and opportunity.
“She got home from grocery shopping. I helped her bring the groceries in,” Jeffrey said when being questioned. Through tears, he later said, “I’m having a hard enough time … She’s always been a really nice lady.”
Prosecutors suggest that was a lie, and that Ruth had a history of mental illness, and was often violent toward her children. In 2010, she was arrested and held in jail after attacking Jeffrey. Charges were dropped when she was treated at a hospital and promised to stay on her medication.
“I graduated high school and she just went manic … it was a change … she wasn’t depressed anymore, she [was] just crazy,” jurors heard Jeffrey say on the tape.
The day of her death, Jeffrey told investigators things had been getting better with his mother, telling investigators, “We didn’t even argue today.”
Sitting in court Wednesday, Jeffrey showed little emotion — a stark contrast from the man jurors watched in the police interrogation video that was shot just hours after the murder. Jeffrey says he was at work at the time of the killing, and maintains he is innocent.
In the tape, police can be seen checking Jeffrey’s body for signs of a struggle. Officers photographed injuries on his hand, blisters Jeffrey said he got lifting wooden pallets at his job. Jeffrey had explained the wounds to his boss, who testified, was the results of throwing a shipping pallet.
“It did seem odd to me,” his boss, farmer William Cartwright said. “I expected more of a splinter or scrape than what looked like rope burns.”
It is still not clear if Jeffrey will take the stand during his trial. If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.
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