Stories about Jeff Pyne’s case Today was an intense half day of court in the murder trial of Jeffrey Pyne, as jurors watched a video of Pyne, 22, being interviewed by police after his mother was murdered.
Pyne, a U of M-Flint Biology student, is accused of murdering his mentally ill mother Ruth Pyne, who had previously been violent towards Jeffrey and his 12-year-old sister Julia. Jeff continues to maintain his innocence, and many of his family members, friends, and neighbors support him.
Detective David Hendrick testifies
Detective David Hendrick started the afternoon by telling the court that he was called by his lieutenant on May 27th, and arrived at the Pyne house between 3:30 and 4:00 pm. When he arrived, he was briefed by the other officers. He then went into the Pyne’s house with another officer, and proceeded down to the garage. In the garage, he observed Ruth Pyne with severe wounds, including head and neck wounds as well as swollen hands with defensive wounds.
After the crime lab detectives began “processing the scene,” Hendrick called for additional personnel to help search the property and neighborhood. He asked the fireman to bring a ladder and search the roof. He also asked them to drain the pool to search for evidence. Nothing was found during any of these searches.
Two detectives from the Fugitive Apprehension Team went door to door in the neighborhood. Again, nothing was found.
Hendrick then went from room to room to search the Pyne’s home. The house was very neat and orderly, with no signs of ransacking. Since there was no sign of forced entry or theft, he believed that the killer was someone with access to the house. He also saw Ruth Pyne’s purse on the table, and noticed that her cell phone and money were still inside the purse.
Hendrick told the court that he knew some of the history of the family as related to Ruth Pyne’s illness. He was especially aware that in 2010, Ruth Pyne was arrested for assaulting her son.
On the night of the murder, Hendrick returned to the Highland Substation. He watched the interviews of Bernard and Julia Pyne, and partnered with Sergeant Glover to interview Jeffrey Pyne. This interview will be discussed in detail at the end of this story.
Detective work in days after murder
The day after the murder, Hendrick attended the autopsy of Ruth Pyne. Pictures of the autopsy were shown to the jury. Hendrick stated that he considered the major bruising and cuts on both arms, hands and knees to be “defensive wounds.”
Four cell phones were turned over to the police: Jeff’s, Ruth’s, and Bernie’s personal and business phones.
The day after the murder, police went to Diane Needham’s neighborhood because Jeff had indicated that he had been doing some gardening for Mrs. Needham on the day of the homicide.
While Diane Needham wasn’t home, she called later and met with Hendrick on May 31st. Diane gave the police a copy of a cell phone message left by Jeff as well as a list of hours he worked.
The police also talked to other neighbors to see if anyone had seen Jeff Pyne planting bushes at Needham’s that day.
Hendrick estimated that it was about four miles from the defendant’s house to Diane’s house. It is about six miles from Pyne’s house to Spicer’s, and about 6.5 miles from Needham’s house to Spicer’s.
Hendrick said that over the next few days, many police conducted thorough searches of the entire area. Highland is a rural area, and there are many wooded and overgrown lots.
The police also interviewed several people in the days after the murder. A man named Sam Hill claimed that he had information that he received while serving time at the Oakland County Jail. However, this information turned out to be false.
The Pynes had suggested that police interview Michael Dolittle, who was the handyman who did siding work on the Pyne’s home in 2009. Mr. Dolittle’s alibi was valid. The police also interviewed members of a local lawn crew, who provided documents showing they left the Pyne’s house around 10:30 am that day.
The police also interviewed people who work with Bernie Pyne at GM Proving Grounds. They obtained a search warrant of Bernie’s office and did not find anything. Bernie’s alibi of having a late lunch was confirmed, so he was no longer considered to be a suspect.
On July 30, Hendrick received blood and hairs in a UPS package. He sent this overnight to a lab in Pennsylvania for analysis of the hairs from Ruth Pyne’s hand.
On August 10, Hendrick visited the Medical Examiner and showed him the knife that was recovered from Jeffrey Pyne. He asked the Medical Examiner to determine if that knife could have been one that was used to stab Ruth Pyne.
The police interview of Jeffrey Pyne
At this point, the prosecutor submitted into evidence a disk and a written version of the interview between Hendrick and Jeff Pyne. Each juror was given a written copy of this interview.
We then watched the long and painful video of Jeff being interviewed by the detectives on the night of the murder. He seemed tired and depressed during the interview, though he answered the questions clearly.
Hendrick started out by asking Jeff about his injuries. Jeff stated that the pallet which injured him was the broken pallet in the picture of Spicer’s. This is the pallet that was admitted into the evidence earlier.
Jeff then told Hendrick that he was at Diane Needham’s house the day of the murder. He told the officers that Mrs. Needham was in South Carolina until the 19th but that he hadn’t seen that she had returned yet by the 27th.
Jeff said that he slept until 10:00 am on May 27, and then helped his mother put away groceries around 11:30. His mother went to lie down in her bedroom, and he then decided to go to the Needham’s because he was bored and itching for something to do. Jeff told Hendrick that he exited his house that day out the side service door of the garage, and left it unlocked since he knew his father and sister were coming home soon.
In the video, Jeff told the officers that he arrived at Needham’s around 1:30 to transplant five lilac bushes, and he also swept the basement, as he had just painted it.
The arrangement with Mrs. Needham and Jeff was this: he has the key to her house and she left him a list of things to do. He worked when his schedule allowed it.
Jeff told officers that he left Needham’s for Spicer’s around 2:30, and clocked in just before 3:00. This is when Jeff said that he injured his hand on a pallet.
Jeff told the officers that his family members got along well since his mother had started new medication in September. “When she goes manic, it puts a lot of stress on us all. But it hasn’t been that way since September,” he stated.
He explained that last year, when Ruth Pyne wasn’t on her medication, Jeff woke up early in the morning and heard his parents screaming at each other. He went inside their room and his mother tried to choke him. They had to call police to take her away, and she ended up in jail.
Jeff said that Ruth Pyne blames all of her problems on his father, Bernie. He said that he never had a problem with his mom other than the times that she didn’t want to take her medicine.
Jeff stated that Ruth Pyne’s issues started when Jeff was seven. At that time, she was depressed. She was good from 2000-2008, then she got bad again. “She became crazy and hyper…and was all over the place,” Jeff explained.
Hendrick talked to Jeff about him playing softball with people from work. Jeff just played one game and used his dad’s old equipment. He said that the hockey sticks and baseball bats in the garage were normally kept in the corner near the service door.
Jeff told police that the doctor switched Ruth Pyne’s medications in the past week, to limit side effects.
Jeff then talked about his girlfriend Holly, and said that she didn’t like to come over to the Pyne’s because of Ruth Pyne’s issues. However, they had recently talked about Holly visiting more frequently since Ruth improved.
Jeff said that his mom didn’t really have any friends. She used to have friends before 2008 and she would have lunch with them, but she no longer socialized with anyone. He couldn’t think of any enemies, or anyone who wanted to murder Ruth.
Hendrick then asked Jeff if he knew what happened to his mom. Jeff said he did not. Hendrick then told Jeff that his mother was murdered, and Jeff put his face in his hands.
Hendrick asked if Jeff knew anyone who would do this to his mom. Jeff replied no, and said that he went to a small Christian school and didn’t even know anyone who was violent. He then told the police about neighbors who were “a bit weird,” stating “They egged our house a few years back. They’re sort of a big clan all living over there.”
The police then became more aggressive with Jeff. Jeff continued to say over and over that he had no fight with his mom that day.
Hendrick also noted scratches on Jeff’s forearm. Jeff replied that a goat got loose at Spicer’s, and he had to catch the goat.
Jeff also told the police that the stains on his pants were from paint.
Jeff stated that he took a shower the night before, and didn’t think that anyone had used the downstairs shower or laundry room the day of the murder.
The police then left Jeff alone in the room, with the camera still on. Jeff put his face in his hands for an extended period of time and appeared to be crying while he rocked. The courtroom was very quiet as everyone watched the video of this young man grieving for what seemed like forever.
Finally, the detectives went back into the room and asked Jeff to remove his bandages. They examined his wounds and asked him more about the pallet he dropped. Jeff stood up and demonstrated how his hand was caught in-between the pallets. The officers continued to badger him, but Jeff stuck to his story that he was moving a pallet and injured his hands.
The police then asked Jeff to remove his shoes. Jeff did so, and stated that those were the only shoes he wore that day. He said that he does not wear shoes inside his house.
Jeff then explained to the police that he had called Diane Needham after he left her house because he was concerned since she was supposed to return from South Carolina on May 19 and wasn’t back yet.
The police informed Jeff that they had possession of his phone to investigate calls that he made. Jeff asked if he could see his phone to get a couple of phone numbers, but they told him that they had already turned the phone into the lab. Jeff then signed a slip giving the police permission to search his phone.
Jeff told the police that Ruth had blamed Bernie for her illness, and has been very angry that Bernie was considering leaving Ruth and taking Jeff and Julia with him. Bernie was trying really hard to improve his relationship with his wife, doing things such as giving her flowers.
The police continued to ask Jeff about his relationship with his mother. He said that she had been doing well since September, but the past few days she had been a bit agitated “due to her switching medications.”
Jeff explained further that Ruth had recently been paranoid that Bernie was taking her name off some bank accounts. The police then asked Jeff if Ruth ever accused Jeff of stealing from her. He described a scene in 2009 when Ruth accused him of stealing her debit card and smacked him.
The police continued to badger Jeff: “Did you do anything at all today to hurt your mom? Did you have any arguments with her? Do you have any idea who would?”
Jeff continued to answer “no, no, no,” and then broke down and started crying. The police continued to question him over and over, and he continued to deny that he had anything to do with killing his mother.
Jeff finally settled down. In addition to the “crazy neighbors who egged our house,” he could only think of one other issue with neighbors. Years ago, the Pynes fought with their next door neighbors over a dead tree.
The police again left Jeff alone with the camera on. He continued to cry with his head down, and took some Kleenex. He then tried to put his bandages back on his hands.
The judge ended the film minutes before it was over, as he didn’t want to keep the jury overtime.
To read all the stories about this case, please see the Index of stories about Jeff Pyne’s case.