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Detroit-area man gets 17 years in porch shooting

By ED WHITE
Associated Press
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/09/03/14/26/554-VMZaO.Em.55.jpeg|234
    Clarence Tabb Jr - AP
    Jasmine McBride, 23, sister of Renisha, McBride reads an impact statement before the court during the sentencing hearing for Theodore Wafer, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, 2014, in Detroit. Wafer was sentenced to at least 17 years in prison on Tuesday for killing an unarmed Renisha McBride on his porch. During the trial, he said he shot the 19-year-old because he feared for his life, but a jury rejected Wafer's claim of self-defense. (AP Photo/Detroit News, Clarence Tabb Jr.) DETROIT FREE PRESS OUT; HUFFINGTON POST OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/09/03/14/26/731-1wj5hl.Em.55.jpeg|238
    Clarence Tabb Jr - AP
    Judge Dana Hathaway speaks during the sentencing hearing for Theodore Wafer, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, 2014, in Detroit. Wafer was sentenced to at least 17 years in prison on Tuesday for killing an unarmed Renisha McBride on his porch. During the trial, he said he shot the 19-year-old because he feared for his life, but a jury rejected Wafer's claim of self-defense. (AP Photo/Detroit News, Clarence Tabb Jr.) DETROIT FREE PRESS OUT; HUFFINGTON POST OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/09/03/14/26/767-jhNM2.Em.55.jpeg|214
    Clarence Tabb Jr - AP
    Walter Simmons, father of Renisha McBride, speaks to reporters outside the courthouse before the sentencing hearing of Theodore Wafer, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, 2014, in Detroit. Wafer was sentenced to at least 17 years in prison on Tuesday for killing an unarmed Renisha McBride on his porch. During the trial, he said he shot the 19-year-old because he feared for his life, but a jury rejected Wafer's claim of self-defense. (AP Photo/Detroit News, Clarence Tabb Jr.) DETROIT FREE PRESS OUT; HUFFINGTON POST OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/09/03/14/26/326-1uFLHk.Em.55.jpeg|243
    Clarence Tabb Jr. - AP
    Theodore Wafer is led out of the courtroom by Wayne County Sheriff, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, 2014, in Detroit, after he was sentenced to at least 17 years in prison for killing an unarmed woman on his porch. During the trial, he said he shot 19-year-old Renisha McBride because he feared for his life, but a jury rejected Wafer's claim of self-defense. (AP Photo/Detroit News, Clarence Tabb Jr.) DETROIT FREE PRESS OUT; HUFFINGTON POST OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/09/03/11/20/851-14X5Ic.Em.55.jpeg|239
    Detroit News, Clarence Tabb Jr., File - AP Photo
    FILE - In this Aug. 4, 2014 file photo, Theodore Wafer, of Dearborn Heights, Mich., testifies in his own defense during his trial for the Nov. 2, 2013, killing of Renisha McBride in Detroit. Wafer was sentenced WednesdaySept. 3, 2014 to at least 17 years in prison for killing an unarmed woman who appeared on his porch before dawn.

DETROIT A suburban Detroit man who killed an unarmed woman on his porch instead of calling police was sentenced Wednesday to at least 17 years in prison after telling the victim's family he would carry "guilt and sorrow forever."

Wayne County Judge Dana Hathaway followed the recommendation of prosecutors in the case of Theodore Wafer, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride.

Wafer, 55, of Dearborn Heights opened his front door and shot McBride through a screen door Nov. 2. He said he was awakened by pounding before dawn and feared for his life. A jury rejected his self-defense claim.

"Although the evidence clearly showed that Miss McBride made some terrible choices that night, none of them justified taking her life," the judge said. "I do not believe that you're a cold-blooded murderer or that this case had anything to do with race or that you're some sort of monster.

"I do believe that you acted out of some fear but mainly anger and panic," Hathaway said. "An unjustified fear is never an excuse for taking someone's life. ... So what do we have? One life gone and one life ruined."

No one knows why McBride ended up at Wafer's home about 4:30 a.m. Prosecutors speculated she may have been seeking help hours after crashing her car about half a mile away in Detroit. An autopsy revealed she was extremely drunk.

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

With his back to the courtroom gallery, Wafer told the judge that he killed a woman who was "too young to leave this world."

"I will carry that guilt and sorrow forever," he said, often pausing to control his emotions.

Wafer was convicted last month of second-degree murder, manslaughter and unlawful use of a gun. The trial centered on whether he had a reasonable and honest belief that he was in peril. He said he couldn't immediately find his cellphone to call 911 and grabbed a shotgun instead.

He first suggested to police that it was an accident but later admitted to intentionally pulling the trigger.

Noting Wafer's age, defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter told the judge that anything more than 10 years in prison would be a "death sentence."

Wafer has health problems after a career as a laborer, including outdoor maintenance at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Carpenter said.

"This wasn't planned," she said of the shooting. "He didn't go out looking for this. It came to him."

Wafer's maximum sentence is 32 years in prison, although he'll be eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 17 years. He is automatically eligible to appeal.

"Somewhere down the line in life, I have to forgive you in order to be accepted into heaven," McBride's sister, Jasmine McBride, said during an opportunity for relatives to speak in court. "But I will never forget the pain, the hurt, the heartache or the devastation you caused my family."

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