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“My grandma just shot me!”

It was a recipe for disaster.

In 2012, Jonathan Hoffman’s life seemed to be falling apart. His sister was suffering from brain cancer and his family was splitting up. When his parents prepared to move to Arizona for the sister’s medical treatment, Jonathan argued to stay in Michigan.

His grandmother, 74-year-old retired school teacher Sandra Layne, offered to take him in.

Layne didn’t realize Jonathan had a drug problem. The 17-year-old was addicted to Spice, a synthetic marijuana. It isn’t clear if Jonathan’s drug use started before or after he began living with his grandparents.

By all accounts, Layne ran a tight ship. She was determined her grandson would clean up his life, obey her rules, and graduate from high school.

Defiant, Jonathan continued to use drugs, at one point experiencing such a bad trip on magic mushrooms that he called 911, convinced he was dying. He was rushed to the hospital, and his mother, Jennifer Hoffman, was so concerned she flew in from Arizona. Hoffman says that she wanted her son to go into rehab, but her mother refused. Layne says she told her daughter to take responsibility for their son and deal with his problems, which Hoffman denies.

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After the police caught Jonathan with drugs in his car, the teenager was placed on probation, which included regular drug testing. In the meantime, his arguments with his grandmother continued to escalate. Each time, Layne sent her husband outside to “walk the dog,” so he wouldn’t witness the ongoing feud.

Reportedly afraid of her volatile grandson, Layne called for police assistance during one argument. The police came, but no arrests were made.

In this situation, Layne had many options. She could have called her daughter. She could have told the police she wasn’t able to handle Jonathan anymore. She could have sent her grandson to rehab.

Instead, she bought a semi-automatic and took shooting lessons at the gun range. She kept her new skills a secret from her husband, who had no idea there was a Glock 17 in the house.

Just four days after the police intervened between Layne and her grandson, Jonathan failed one of his court-mandated drug tests. Terrified of going to prison, Jonathan wanted to run to his parents in Arizona, but Layne refused to let him go.

As her teenage grandson stood in the bathroom in his shorts and socks, reportedly about to go out and visit a friend, Layne went to get her gun. She hoped the weapon would make Jonathan listen.

Instead, Jonathan was shot in the bathroom and again in his bedroom, where he fled to escape his grandmother’s wrath. Media reports on the case vary, but at least five shots hit Jonathan–three in his chest, one in his arm, and one in his stomach.

As Jonathan begged for his life while lying on his bedroom floor, his grandmother left the room, but not to get help…

To reload.

In the three minutes she was gone, Jonathan managed to call 911 and ask for help–help that came too late. When Layne returned, she shot her grandson an additional two times, even though he was lying helpless on the floor.

When police arrived, the weeping grandmother admitted she had shot her grandson. She later claimed there was an altercation over the gun and she’d shot Jonathan in self-defence, but the 911 recording sealed her fate.

“Sandra Layne is pure evil and, if given the opportunity, would surely kill again,” said Jennifer Hoffman of her mother.

Layne was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in jail. Her most recent appeal was rejected.

Why do you think Layne bought a gun rather than admit she needed help with Jonathan? Was it her need for control, or something else? How could this tragedy have been avoided? 

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48 Comments

    • JH

      Exactly. It’s so bizarre that she didn’t accept the help that was offered to her.

      She was clearly in over her head.

      Reply
    • Aaron Klein

      My dad dated jennifer Hoffman when I was 11 in 2011 and her daughter needed brain surgery due to some kind of cancer. She left her son with her mom. Her son was deranged as I recall always starting trouble. He was kicked out of Highschool and was on probation. He was really bad. I know ms. Sandra she is one of the sweetest women I have ever met shame on Jennifer Hoffman.

      Reply
      • JH

        Thanks for weighing in, Aaron. As someone who knew the family, you have a valuable perspective. Sandra may have been sweet, but surely you agree she made some poor choices? Why buy a gun and learn how to use it rather than relinquish guardianship of the grandson? Having a gun in that house was just asking for trouble.

        Reply
  1. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    She was just determined to do it her way and not about to admit defeat. So twisted.

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Alex. It’s an extreme example of the danger of being a control freak.

      Reply
  2. Heather M. Gardner

    That is so chilling.
    That poor kid. To die so horribly. Desperately holding on to the woman that was supposed to protect him and she’s the one who murdered him.
    His own parents not getting him the help he needed in rehab.
    His grandfather, so verbally abused by the grandmother, he just did anything she said?
    Everyone failed him.
    Heather

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Heather. It seems like everyone in this woman’s family was cowed by her, especially if the mother really did want her son in rehab as she claims.

      Reply
  3. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    Where was the grandfather in all of this? Where was the boy’s father? Did the boy’s mother believe the grandmother was crazy, and if so, why let him stay there? So many questions we’ll never really know the answers to. We can’t really know what goes on in people’s heads. As writers, of course, we can imagine….

    Reply
    • JH

      The grandfather was sent outside whenever the two were about to fight – I’m not sure if he pressed the issue afterwards, but it appears he didn’t intervene.

      I don’t think the mother thought her own mother was crazy, but she definitely disagreed with some of her decisions. The father seemed to be out of the picture somewhat due to the impending divorce, and both were focused on the daughter with brain cancer. He did give a statement to the media during the court case:

      “If he were a soldier in war, this could somehow be processed. If he was struck by a drunk driver, then I could somehow accept the loss, but Jon was in peacetime West Bloomfield, Michigan. (Layne) put on her war paint and she came in gunning for my boy. As we know, she would not be content until he was dead. As we know, she did not want him to leave.”

      Reply
    • Aaron Klein

      The boys father and mother were getting their daughter treated for cancer in arizona

      Reply
  4. Kellie

    Oh my, she was a complete psychotic. Many bullies will do anything to maintain control of their grip on reality. Most times what they do makes absolutely no sense to a normal rational person.
    There really are ‘bad’ people in the world.

    Reply
    • JH

      It makes me wonder what she was like as a teacher. *shudder*

      Reply
  5. Patricia Lynne

    Yikes! I’d wonder if she was just too proud to admit she needed help with her grandson and that clouded her judgement and made her shoot him.

    Reply
    • JH

      It seems that way. Something was seriously wrong, that’s for sure.

      Reply
  6. Chrys Fey

    Jeez. I understand that drug problems and teens aren’t a good mix, but that’s no reason to buy a gun. She was truly sinister. I think she just wanted to kill him for some sick reason. I mean, if she was truly afraid for her safety, why send her husband away when these fights would happen? Makes no season. Especially to keep shooting when he was already shot and helpless on the floor.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yes, that’s the most disturbing. There’s a chance he could have lived if she hadn’t kept shooting.

      Reply
    • JH

      Me too, Anna.

      Reply
  7. Jaime

    Sounds like the grandmother had some form of narcissistic personality disorder or other type of mental disease. I deal with one with NPD in my own family so this kind of jumped out at me. She took it to the very extreme, but it explains the need to control and why the other family members acted the way they did. The grandfather is an enabler, kind of like with alcoholics, which really shows the kind of manipulative control these people have over others. The husbands life would have been made hell had he gone against her. Chilling and sad for the boy who clearly never thought his grandmother was that dangerous

    Reply
    • JH

      It’s certainly possible, Jaime. I’m sorry you have to deal with that as well. At the very least, the grandma was a “control freak.” One explanation for her actions that’s come up repeatedly is that she couldn’t bear to admit defeat.

      Welcome back! I’ve missed you. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Susan Scott

    I’m not sure I know what to say – altogether a tragic story – from the mother leaving to Az for treatment of illness of daughter and leaving her son in care of her own mother – so, absent mother and father, absent grandfather, absent sister, drug problems – and a controlling grandmother who was determined to get this boy off drugs and make a life – who knows what was going on in her mind? Maybe she felt a need for protection for reasons unspecified ..

    Reply
    • JH

      Could be. Having someone in the house who’s an addict could certainly have introduced an unsavoury element. One of the local reporters said Jonathan had begun hanging out with a bad crowd.

      But why reload? And why not tell her husband about the gun.

      It’s a very sad story, for sure.

      Reply
  9. Lori Carlson

    I remember hearing about this when it happened. What this grandmother did is despicable. She could have gotten him out of the house.. rehab, jail, back to her daughter.. something. To me, I believe she was so controlling that she knew eventually she would kill him. Hence the gun. And making her husband leave during confrontations. I believe she was a cold-hearted bitch all along.

    Reply
    • JH

      Welcome to my blog, Lori!

      I agree with your theory. She may not have known she would kill him, but I believe she bought the gun as a means of controlling him. She just couldn’t stand losing control.

      Reply
  10. Roland Yeomans

    I am glad I wasn’t one of her students. Just study that face. Brrrr.

    Reply
    • JH

      Me too, Roland.

      Reply
  11. Birgit

    Look at that face staring at us. That face says “You will do as I say. I am in the right and he deserved this treatment.” She is one cold sociopathic bitch who knew what she was doing. Her husband was probably verbally abused and did as he was told. He sounds meek and he would leave and never did defy his wife did he? Her daughter grew up in such a household that she still could not defy her mother because it is so bred into her. The son, on the other hand had drug issues but he defied her! How dare he do this and she could no longer have this happen. Her face is cold and very evil to me

    Reply
    • JH

      To be fair, I was lucky to find that picture. In a lot of them, she looks like a sweet little old lady, which I don’t think she is.

      Your explanation of the family dynamic makes a lot of sense.

      Reply
    • Kelli

      I totally agree with you. I grew up with a controlling narcissistic mom who controlled the whole family and we all were scared to cross her til the day she died. There was HELL to pay if you didn’t do things her way… Like spreading rumors, manipulating other family members, others in the community. I was the only one who stood up to her and was shunned by all six sibs and my dada and other relatives. After she died i found out all the things she told me others were saying about me or felt about me was a lie and all the bad memories I had that she told me were just in my head.. Were ALL true. Lesson: you really don’t realize the reach controlling people have unless you’ve lived it. They are very scary. I hope the mom doesn’t blame herself. She wAs probably relieved somewhat that her son would be living with people who supposedly loved him while she tried to focus on her daughter for a while. Horrid story!

      Reply
  12. Sara C. Snider

    Whoa, what a weird, sad story. I imagine the need for control must have played a part, as she didn’t seem terribly concerned for her grandson’s welfare, but rather making sure he did what she said. I almost want to get mad at the mom for leaving her son behind in that environment (I mean, she had to know what her mother was like, even if she didn’t think her son would ever get shot), but then I can’t imagine what it would be like caring for another child with cancer. It must have been really overwhelming for her. A truly sad story. 🙁

    Reply
    • JH

      It definitely is, Sara. I can’t even imagine how the mother feels. She must be so betrayed, enraged, and devastated.

      I’m sure no one ever thought this would happen, including the grandfather. It’s beyond insane.

      Reply
  13. Denise D Hammond

    I am embarrassed to say that something like this happened in my community, not even two miles from my home. This woman was defiant throughout the entire ordeal. I never believed that she felt any remorse for what she had done. The multiple shots were not necessary if all she wanted to do was subdue him. So tragic.

    Reply
    • JH

      Really, Denise? Wow, I thought this was an unusual case. Sorry to hear it has happened before (or since).

      The multiple shots were definitely not necessary. She should have got him some help.

      Reply
      • Denise

        Well, I did not phrase that correctly. Sandra did live in my community. Guess I should have dumped the word ‘something’.

        Reply
        • JH

          Sorry to hear. Did you know her?

          Reply
          • Denise D Hammond

            I did not know here though I think I had seen her around town. When I first saw her face in the paper, I thought she looked very familiar. Having spent 40+ years in the community and 20+ in public office here, I’ve met and seen a lot of folks who I will never remember.

  14. Crystal Collier

    That’s one messed up family. Makes you glad for the peace you find in your own household, eh?

    Reply
    • JH

      Such as it is. 😉

      Reply
  15. L. Diane Wolfe

    She’s the reason so many kids end up in the foster care system. Only that poo boy never made it.

    Reply
    • JH

      Welcome to my blog! He would have been better off in foster care, that’s for sure.

      Reply
  16. C. Lee McKenzie

    Well, this is an interesting twist on the elderly. One never expects Grandma to load and shoot–repeatedly and at them. I’m glad I’m not the mother because I couldn’t imagine the regret and sorrow over her decision not to insist her son go to rehab.

    Reply
    • JH

      Me neither, Lee. She must be going through hell.

      Reply
  17. Shadow

    OOoooookay, an extreme reaction.

    Reply
    • JH

      You could say that!

      Reply
  18. Tamara Narayan

    What a horrifying story. If you need to buy a gun because of someone living with you, then there is a problem you can’t handle. I can’t wrap my head around the grandmother’s actions at all.

    Reply
    • JH

      You and me both, Tamara.

      Reply
  19. AmandaLoveBEYHalleJanetJ-Llo

    RIP JONATHAN HOFFMAN, SO YOUNG A TEEN-CHILD KILLED BY HIS OWN GRANDMOTHER, SANDRA, AS SEEN TODAY ON DEADLY WOMEN AGAIN, REPEAT I.D.DISCOVERY CHANNEL. 1 OF THE MOST EVIL WOMAN ALIVE, I M HOPING SHE SUFFER, IN PRISON, AND IF THERE IS A HELL AFTER LIFE,SHE WILL GO THERE, I TRULY BELIEVE IT. AGE IS IRRELEVANT.SHE KNEW WHAT SHE WAS DOING,AND SHE COULD HAVE STOPPED,BUT RE-LOAD? HE DIED PREMISE ON THE LAST SHOT or 2, so sad. rip now jonathan, you’re at peace,but grandmother will not or i pray at least she will not be. so sad, and senseless.i WISH he fought her for the gun,but i am thinking he did not think @ the time of being shot the 1st time.Maybe was in shock.rip.

    Reply

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