Jeffrey Pyne Murder Trial: Opening Statements Set to Begin in Michigan

PHOTO: Jeffrey Pyne, a former high school valedictorian and University of Michigan student, is on trial today, accused of bludgeoning and stabbing his mentally ill mother to death.
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Opening statements are set to begin today in the murder trial of former high school valedictorian and University Of Michigan biology student Jeffrey Pyne, who is accused of bludgeoning and stabbing his mentally ill mother to death inside the garage of their suburban home.

Pyne, 22, is accused of first-degree murder in the May 2011 slaying of 51-year-old Ruth Pyne, 51, whose body was discovered by her 11-year-old daughter inside the family's home in Highland Township, Mich., beaten and stabbed 16 times. In October of 2011, after five months of investigation, authorities arrested and charged Jeffrey Pyne. He has been held since without bond.

"From the beginning, prosecutors and police focused on Jeffrey, and the whole family, for that matter," Lori Brasier of the Detroit Free Press told ABC News.

Jeffrey Pyne was indicted by a secret grand jury, so little is known about the evidence linking him to the killing. Court documents filed by prosecutors do refer to wounds on his hands hours after the murder. Pyne says he was at work at the time of the killing and maintains he is innocent.

Pyne's father told ABC News he believes his son, who was a star athlete and valedictorian at West Highland Christian Academy, is innocent. The sentiment is shared by many in the tight-knit Highland Township community. It took a judge two days to find 12 impartial jurors to hear the case.

"The people in the community are hugely supportive of this young man," Brasier said. "Even people who believe he may have actually killed his mother still support him, and you don't usually find that in the community."

Donna Gundle-Krieg, a family friend and Jeffrey's former teacher, said there's no way he killed Ruth Pyne.

"I absolutely do not believe that Jeffrey Pyne is guilty of this murder," she said. "He loved his mother."Opening statements are set to begin today in the murder trial of former high school valedictorian and University Of Michigan biology student Jeffrey Pyne, who is accused of bludgeoning and stabbing his mentally ill mother to death inside the garage of their suburban home.

Pyne, 22, is accused of first-degree murder in the May 2011 slaying of 51-year-old Ruth Pyne, 51, whose body was discovered by her 11-year-old daughter inside the family's home in Highland Township, Mich., beaten and stabbed 16 times. In October of 2011, after five months of investigation, authorities arrested and charged Jeffrey Pyne. He has been held since without bond.

"From the beginning, prosecutors and police focused on Jeffrey, and the whole family, for that matter," Lori Brasier of the Detroit Free Press told ABC News.

Jeffrey Pyne was indicted by a secret grand jury, so little is known about the evidence linking him to the killing. Court documents filed by prosecutors do refer to wounds on his hands hours after the murder. Pyne says he was at work at the time of the killing and maintains he is innocent.

Pyne's father told ABC News he believes his son, who was a star athlete and valedictorian at West Highland Christian Academy, is innocent. The sentiment is shared by many in the tight-knit Highland Township community. It took a judge two days to find 12 impartial jurors to hear the case.

"The people in the community are hugely supportive of this young man," Brasier said. "Even people who believe he may have actually killed his mother still support him, and you don't usually find that in the community."

Donna Gundle-Krieg, a family friend and Jeffrey's former teacher, said there's no way he killed Ruth Pyne.

"I absolutely do not believe that Jeffrey Pyne is guilty of this murder," she said. "He loved his mother."

Court records show Ruth Pyne had a history of mental illness dating back 14 years. Nine months before her death, she was accused of attempting to strangle Jeffrey. She served two weeks in jail, after being charged.

"We did know that she was ill, but the family never let on of the nature of the illness," Gundle-Krieg said.

Former New York prosecutor Dan Schorr said Ruth Pyne's mental issues might have been a motive.

"Her own psychiatrist actually recommended that she become an inpatient because of her mental illness," said Schorr, who has no connection to the case. "The question is, did this violent history with the mother provide a motive for the son to then commit murder?"

Free Press journalist Brasier told ABC News that the slaying was a rage killing.

"That certainly lines up with the prosecutors contention that this was an angry young man that had had it with his mother," she said.

If convicted, Pyne faces life in prison, without parole.

Court records show Ruth Pyne had a history of mental illness dating back 14 years. Nine months before her death, she was accused of attempting to strangle Jeffrey. She served two weeks in jail, after being charged.

"We did know that she was ill, but the family never let on of the nature of the illness," Gundle-Krieg said.

Former New York Sprosecutor Dan Schorr said Ruth Pyne's mental issues might have been a motive.

"Her own psychiatrist actually recommended that she become an inpatient because of her mental illness," said Schorr, who has no connection to the case. "The question is, did this violent history with the mother provide a motive for the son to then commit murder?"

Free Press journalist Brasier told ABC News that the slaying was a rage killing.

"That certainly lines up with the prosecutors contention that this was an angry young man that had had it with his mother," she said.

If convicted, Pyne faces life in prison, without parole.

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