Mother's brutal murder reveals dark family secrets
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Jeffrey, Ruth, Julia and Bernie Pyne
Bernie Pyne has been spending the holiday season trying to keep some sense of normalcy for his daughter, Julia, as they both wait for a jury to decide whether Julia's brother is coming home.
"The only thing that -- that repeats and goes through my mind is, 'Gotta get my son home to his sister. I've got to restore what's left of my family," he told Tracy Smith. "I had to tell her ... we're pretty sure that Jeffrey's comin' home, but the system isn't perfect and that there is a chance that -- that maybe Jeffrey isn't comin' home.' It shook her visibly."
"What'd she do? What'd she say?" Smith asked.
"'I just can't think about that, Dad. It can't happen,'" he said.
"Do you allow yourself to think about that?"
"I really don't," Bernie said. "I can't imagine Julia not havin' her brother back and I can't imagine not havin' my son back at home."
It's the third day of jury deliberations.
"We're gonna be all right. I'm focusing on the positive right now," said Bernie.
Bernie, who's been waiting more than a year for Jeffrey to be cleared in the murder of his mother, must wait four more hours before he can learn his son's fate due to the judge's crowded court docket.
"The agony of having to wait four hours to hear a verdict, is just, it's torture," he said.
But he is hopeful it will end with an early Christmas present for Julia.
"She has a play tonight -- a Christmas play at 7:00 p.m. that she's playing the prelude for on the piano. And-- my hope and my prayer is that-- I can take him ... to that play and he can see her play that prelude," said Bernie.
"In the people of the state of Michigan vs. Jeffrey Pyne, we the jury find the defendant guilty of second degree murder."
Second-degree murder. The jury determined that Jeffrey killed his mother, but it was not premeditated.
Jeffrey seemed stunned, nodding his head in disbelief; Bernie is distraught and disillusioned.
"I wasn't there to protect my wife when I needed to be and I wasn't able to get my son--home for his sister for Christmas. So it's not been a good year," Bernie told reporters as he walks out of court.
But for Jeffrey's aunt, the verdict was a relief and a vindication.
"Some justice was served by the guilty verdict today. I am deeply saddened... by my sister Ruth's senseless death. This was a heinous crime. Ruth Pyne was a victim..." Linda Jarvie told the court.
Still, she has sympathy for her nephew.
"I hold no grudge against Jeffrey. I just hope Jeff gets help, the help he needs to understand himself, why he did this," she said.
Bernie had to break the news to his daughter.
"She was more upset then I actually have ever seen her." In tears, he continued, "She said "No, no. no. It can't be."
"Do you think if there was no option for second-degree murder, that the jury would have acquitted Jeffrey?" Smith asked defense attorney James Champion.
"No doubt in my mind," he replied.
Champion has no doubts, because he spoke with jurors immediately after the trial.
"The last question I asked them was, 'If you hadn't had the second-degree instruction, would you have acquitted him?' And they said 'yes,'" said Champion.
"I believe the jury got it wrong in this case. Absolutely," Bernie told Smith.
"Could it be that it's just too painful for you to think your son did this to his mother?"
"I don't think so. In fact, if I thought my son had anything to do with his, we wouldn't need court and we wouldn't need attorneys and everything else. I'd have marched him into the police department and we'd have taken care of this," he said.
"What if, somewhere down the line, somehow it's proven to you that he did do this? Would you forgive him?" Smith asked.
"I would forgive him. But that would be tough," said Bernie.
There are mixed emotions for everyone in a case that leaves no victors -- just heartbreak.
"Me and my partner are both fathers and could never imagine what he's going through," Det. Glover said of Bernie. "When the guilty verdict came back, I was happy of the verdict, but at the same point couldn't help but feel bad for Bernie and that family. ...Ultimately, you know, nobody was really going to win in this case. And ... it's a tragedy.
"Julia and I are very close and we're gonna move on. We're gonna take this one day at a time and I've promised her that I will do everything I can to bring her brother back to her," said Bernie.
Jeffrey Pyne will be sentenced on Jan. 29.
Under Michigan law, he could receive as much as life in prison with parole or as little as a year.
For more information on the case, visit www.justiceforjeffpyne.com
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