Since 2008, when designer drugs first came on the scene, hundreds of violent crimes, overdoses and incidents of bizarre behavior have been linked to users of synthetic marijuana. Called Spice, K2, Yucatan, Skunk and Moon Rocks, the drug consists of dried, shredded plant material sprayed with chemicals that when smoked produces an intense high. Marketed as a "safe" legal alternative to pot, the drug was sold openly in tobacco shops and gas stations.
Synthetic marijuana can cause bath salts-like euphoria, paranoia and hallucinations. In addition to becoming agitated, aggressive and violent, users have suffered seizures and heart attacks. Several states made this group of mind-altering substances illegal. One of those states was Michigan, the site of a murder case involving a high school student named Jonathan Hoffman.
After his divorced parents moved from West Bloomfield, Michigan to Scottsdale, Arizona, 17-year-old Jonathan Hoffman, in the fall of 2011, moved in with his grandparents so he could finish his senior year at Farmington Central High School. He had been accepted to East Michigan University where he planned on majoring in computer science. The boy's father, 56-year-old Michael Hoffman, a prominent divorce lawyer and co-founder of the law firm American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM), had recently retired. He and Jonathan's mother had been divorced six years and were living near each other in Scottsdale so they could spend time with Jonathan's 15-year-old sister. While living at his grandparents' condo at Maple Place Villas in the Detroit suburb, Jonathan had been smoking the synthetic marijuana Spice. He had been arrested for possession of the drug and was on probation. This had caused friction between him and his 74-year-old grandmother, a former school teacher named Sandra Layne.
Late in the afternoon of Friday May 18, 2012, neighbors heard Jonathan and his grandmother yelling at each other from inside the condo. They were fighting over Jonathan's schoolwork and his drug abuse. Hearing several gunshots, several neighbors called 911. Jonathan himself phoned for help, screaming that he'd been shot several times and that he was going to die. Three minutes into his 911 call he exclaimed that he had been shot again.
Police officers rolled up to the scene at 5:25 PM and ordered Sandra Layne out of the dwelling. She walked out of the condo carrying a .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol and announced that she had just "murdered" her grandson.
Emergency personnel rushed Jonathan Hoffman to Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills where he died less than an hour later. Police officers transported the 74-year-old mother of five to a holding cell in the West Bloomfield police station.
The Oakland County Medical Examiner determined that Jonathan Hoffman had been shot 10 times. (Later, a toxicological analysis showed that the victim had been high on Spice.)
An Oakland County prosecutor charged Sandra Layne with open murder, a general homicide charge which covered first and second-degree murder. On May 21, 2012, following her arraignment at the West Bloomfield District Court, the judge ordered Sandra Layne to be held without bail in the Oakland County Jail. Her attorney Mitch Ribitwer told reporters that his client, married for 28 years, had never been in trouble before. "She's very distraught, very upset. It's a very difficult time."
In April 2013 an Oakland County jury rejected Sandra Layne's self defense argument and found her guilty of second-degree murder. The judge sentenced the 75-year-old to a minimum of 22 years in prison.