Stories about Jeff Pyne’s case Today was a full day of court in the murder trial of 22-year old Jeffrey Pyne. Pyne is a former University of Michigan-Flint student accused of murdering his mentally ill mother Ruth Pyne, who had been violent towards Jeffrey and his younger sister in the past.
This morning, jurors finished watching the police interview of Jeff Pyne, and then watched and listened as Jeff Pyne’s attorney cross-examined Detective Hendricks.
Remainder of Jeffrey Pyne police interview
Prosecutor Skrzynski started the day by showing the remainder of the videotaped police interview of Jeff Pyne. This interview was held on the evening of May 27th after Ruth Pyne was found murdered in her garage.
For a few minutes, the video continues during the second “break” from the police questioning. During both of the breaks, the officers left Jeff alone in the police room while he was still being videotaped.
While Jeff was alone, he continued to stare at the floor, often with his head in his hands. He also bit his fingernails and mindlessly played with the bandages on the table. In addition, he frequently examined and played with the wounds on his hands.
At the end of this second break, Jeffrey was no longer rocking or sobbing, but he occasionally sniffled. This second “break” in the questioning was also similar to the first break because it seemed as if the police left Jeff alone in the room forever. It was painful to watch him grieve, and the courtroom was even more quiet and somber than usual.
When the officers in the video finally returned to Jeff, they brought him some pants to change into so that they could take Jeff’s jeans into evidence. The officers also brought Jeffrey pictures of pallets from Spicer’s, and had him identify the pallet that hurt him.
They continued to badger him about how the pallets could have injured him. Jeff explained that his hands were stuck in-between the slats of the pallet, and he stood up to demonstrate. Jeff continued to be insistent that the pallet he identified was the pallet that injured him.
The police explained to Jeff that they were questioning him because he was the last person who saw his mom alive, and they wanted to be able to clear him of any wrongdoing. Jeff spoke respectfully and pleasantly to the officers, telling them that he understood why they were questioning him.
The officers then left Jeff alone again, and videotaped him quickly changing his jeans and putting his shoes back on. He folded his original pair of jeans carefully and left them on the table for the officers. He then sat down again and leaned back against the wall, continuing to rock, sigh and put his hands in his face.
The video ended and Hendrick then testified that during the breaks in police questioning, it sounded as if Jeff was crying. However, he thought that the crying was an act since there were no tears. Also, it was suspicious to him that Jeff was able to continue answering questions at an even-keel without any emotion. Hendrick also said that he found it strange that Jeff never asked the police any questions about his mother.
Detective David Hendrick is cross-examined
Jeff’s lawyer James Champion then cross-examined Detective David Hendrick.
Hendrick stated that he was wearing gloves when he went into the Pyne’s house. He believed that when he entered the house, the front door was closed but not locked.
Hendrick told the jury that there was no struggle in the house, and said that he has no knowledge that anything was stolen from the scene. Champion asked him to clarify since there were signs of a major struggle in the garage. Hendrick agreed that there was a struggle in the garage. Champion then asked if he would consider it a robbery if Ruth Pyne’s wedding ring was missing, The detective replied yes, he would consider that a robbery. Champion asked if anyone knew whether Ruth had cash with her when she was killed. Hendrick replied no.
Hendrick stated that the firemen and Fugitive Apprehension personnel were asked to go door-to-door to search for suspects and ask neighbors if they had any information. Champion asked if there was ever an official manhunt, and Hendrick replied no, there was not.
Champion asked if he observed a wedding ring being taken during the autopsy of Ruth Pyne. Hendrick replied that he did not see a wedding ring.
Hendrick was then asked about his interview with Diane Needham. Hendrick told the court that he initially tried contacting Diane Needham on May 28th, but she was not home. Diane called him back that night and met with Hendrick on May 31st.
At the meeting, Diane gave Hendrick copies of three time sheets that she had kept for Jeffrey. She also showed Hendrick the phone’s answering machine, and Hendrick recorded a message that Jeffrey had left for Diane on the day of the murder.
Over the next few days, Hendrick also interviewed several of Diane Needham’s neighbors, as well as friends of Jeffrey and others who might be involved.
Hendrick stated that in the days following the murder, deputies searched eleven mile stretches of the following roads: Hickory Ridge, Clyde, Taggett Lake, Middle, and Tipsico Lake. They searched dumpsters as well as areas along the road.
Hendrick explained that police have to limit the evidence that they send to the Michigan State crime lab. Therefore, police elected not to send Ruth Pyne’s clothes to the lab as evidence.
Champion asked if there was a reason they didn’t send the clothes out since the clothes would have been full of DNA. Hendrick said he thought that the only blood on Ruth was her own.
Hendrick stated that he listened to a recording of the interview with Sam Hill, the man who claimed knowledge of the crime. He also stated that he verified Mr. Dolittle’s alibi that he was at home at the time of the murder. Other officers interviewed the lawn crew and the Proving Ground employees.
Hendrick went to the Medical Examiner on August 10th to show him Jeff Pyne’s knife. The Medical Examiner took measurements of the knife and compared them to the wounds. He then told Hendrick that he could not verify whether or not Jeff’s knife was the knife that was used in the killing. Jeff’s knife had tested negative for blood or other evidence.
Champion asked if Ruth Pyne’s meds were ever seized. Hendrick did not know. Hendrick also did not think that anyone talked to any of Ruth Pyne’s doctors.
Hendrick stated that as far as he knows, no one turned on any of the Pyne’s computers, nor did they seize or analyze any computers that were in the home. Champion asked why they wouldn’t have looked at the computers. Hendrick said there was no reason to look at the computers.
Champion asked it was correct that Bernie Pyne had admitted having a girlfriend, and that Bernie Pyne had considered divorcing Ruth Pyne. Hendrick said that was correct. Champion asked why the computers weren’t searched for evidence if Bernie and his girlfriend may have been involved. Hendrick did not have an answer to this question.
Champion continued to talk about the computer, mentioning that Jeff’s story was that he woke up that morning and played on the computer. Why wouldn’t they check to see if there was any evidence on the computers?
Hendrick verified that Jeff had been pleasant and affable during the police interview, and that he did not stumble or pause when searching for answers. He also admitted that Jeff did not change his answers in any way, other than his description of how he picked up the pallet.
Hendrick also stated that Jeff’s interview with the police was voluntary. Jeff willingly gave the officers his cell phone and was cooperative with police.
Hendrick also stated that he did not take any pictures of the scratches that were on Jeff’s body because they had already begun to heal. He only photographed Jeff’s hands.
Champion asked if it was unusual when Jeff told police “I’m really hungry, but I’m not sure if I could keep food down.” Hendrick replied that this was not an unusual comment.
Champion asked if Jeffrey was pulled over in June 2011 when he was driving on US 23 in Fenton. Hendrick stated that Jeffrey was pulled over at that time, but that he refused to speak with police. Jeff did not commit any traffic violations, but the police stopped him hoping to get information from him. The policemen who stopped Jeff were dressed in plain clothes in unmarked cars. They used portable lights to flash at Jeff to pull him over, even though they had no right.
Hendrick was then questioned about Sam Hill, the prisoner who had claimed that he had information about the murder. He stated that Hill and prison officials could not find the piece of paper that Hill claimed had details. Hendrick also could not locate a prisoner named Payne, who is the person that Hill had supposedly talked to about the crime.
Hendrick testified that the stain on Jeff’s jeans did not turn out to be blood. He agreed that Jeff’s jeans were filthy.
Hendrick said that on May 27, he was not aware that the CSI officers had used the homeowners’ tools to take off the door in the garage. He found that out later.
Hendrick verified that Jeff was still seeing his girlfriend Holly “in some capacity” at the time police interviewed her.
Champion asked if the detectives ever told Jeffrey they were going to make the public believe he is a monster. Hendrick said that he is not the one who said that.
Hendrick was then asked if it is unusual when men do not cry in the presence of other men. Hendrick said this sometimes happens.
Champion then asked if there was any evidence left in the garage that directly links anyone to the crime. Hendrick replied no there was not, but circumstantial evidence was present. He admitted that a weapon has never been found that definitely caused the death, and he verified that no one who was interviewed ever told police that Jeff killed his mother.
Prosecutor Skrzynski then re-examined Hendrick and asked what circumstantial evidence leads Hendrick to believe that Jeffrey is the killer.
Hendrick replied that it is evidence that there was no sign of forced entry. He also said that Ruth’s hand was setting in the door in such a way that proved that no one left out that door after the murder. The other doors in the house were all locked.
Hendrick also stated that the extent of Ruth Pyne’s wounds were indicative of rage and of overkill. He believes that this is evidence that Jeff killed his mother.
He also said that he was also not able to clear Jeff’s story the way that he was able to clear Bernie’s story or the stories of other suspects.
The court then broke for lunch.
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