(DETROIT) — Bernie Pyne has publicly defended his son Jeffrey Pyne just as the case against the former high school valedictorian accused of killing his mother is expected to go to a jury on Friday.
“It’s a tough thing to go through,” Bernie told reporters outside a Michigan courthouse on Thursday. “All I can tell you is that I know my son, my son would never harm his mother. He would never harm her.”
Jeffrey, 22, a former star athlete and University of Michigan biology student, is accused of killing his mentally ill mother, Ruth Pyne, 51, who was beaten and stabbed 16 times in the family’s Highland Township, Mich., garage in May 2011.
The case against his son is not rooted in fact, Bernie told the reporters, despite what prosecutors had said in court only a few hours earlier. They accused Jeffrey of using a board in the family’s garage to beat his mother repeatedly before stabbing her to death.
“When he is going to get that board, you can infer from that he has the intent to kill her, when he goes to get the board, there is no other reason to go and get that board,” prosecuting attorney John Skrzynski told the court.
Defense attorneys say Ruth was mentally ill and abused her son for years. She spent time in jail for assaulting him in 2010. Charges were dropped when she was treated at a hospital and promised to stay on her medication.
“The trail has largely been circumstantial,” Lori Brasier, a criminal justice reporter for the Detroit Free Press, told ABC News. “They don’t have any physical evidence.”
Prosecutors do have photos taken of Jeffrey’s blistered hands, taken shortly after the crime. Jeffrey says the blisters came from throwing a wooden storage pallet at his job on a local farm.
“They have a lot of medical testimony that his story of how that happened is unlikely,” Brasier said.
But the community that has supported the former biology student remains skeptical about his involvement in the killing.
“I still feel very confident that Jeffrey is innocent, and that the jury will see it my way, also,” Donna Gundle-Kriag, a family friend and Jeffrey’s former teacher, told ABC News.
So does his father, who believes the jury will absolve his son.
“We’re going to trust that the system works,” he said. “He has a 12-year-old sister who wants him home for Christmas, and that is our prayer.”
The defense will make its closing argument on Friday, maintaining that Jeffrey was not involved in his mother’s death. The jury is expected to get the case Friday afternoon.
If convicted, Jeffrey faces life in prison without parole.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Debra Goldschmidt, CNN
Mayra Cuevas and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
Sophie Tatum, CNN
Eugene Scott, CNN