Star student Jeffrey Pyne from West Highland, Oakland, was charged with a first-degree murder in the death of his mother, Ruth Pyne, who was found bludgeoned and stabbed to death in her home.
Jeffrey Pyne, 21, now languishes in Oakland County Jail, the same prison his mother spent two weeks last year, charged with beating her son and trying to choke him.
It will be up to a jury to find out what happened on that May 27 afternoon before Ruth Pyne’s body was found by her 11-year-old daughter at their home in the rural community of Highland Township.
A biology student at the University of Michigan before his arrest, Jeffrey Pyne denies the charges, claiming he was at work at the time of his mother’s death.
Many in the close-knit community knew that theirs was a dysfunctional and volatile relationship.
According to the Detroit Free Press it was one which was marked by years of abuse claims and involuntary hospitalizations for Ruth Pyne – who was said to suffer from psychosis and paranoid schizophrenia.
Court documents stated Ruth Pyne needed medication to control her violent tendencies, most of which were targeted towards her son.
Finally, after years of abuse, did mild-mannered Jeffrey Pyne snap and kill his mother? Or do they have the wrong man?
Jeffrey Pyne’s father, Bernard, an automotive engineer, maintains his son is innocent and would never do anything to hurt his mother.
Bernard Pyne, 52, told the Detroit Free Press: “He was never violent toward his mother.”
Court records show that it was when Jeffrey Pyne was only nine-years-old his mother started threatening to kill him.
Ruth Pyne, 51, would often strike her son and sometimes his younger sister.
The woman would be hospitalized four times in the ensuing years and become violent when she refused to take her medication.
Bernard Pyne described his wife as a “kind and loving mother” when she had taken her medication.
Defense attorney James Champion of Grand Rapids said Jeffrey Pyne played no role in the death.
“This wasn’t a case of some kind of struggle or outburst,” James Champion said.
“Jeffrey Pyne did not do this. This is something Jeffrey Dahmer would do, not Jeffrey Pyne.”
For five months her murder was unsolved before the case was taken up by Oakland County grand jury, convened earlier this year to review dozens of unsolved homicides.
Prosecutors said testimony ties Jeffrey Pyne to his mother’s death.
“The grand jury compelled testimony from the defendant’s family, friends and coworkers, which produced evidence linking Jeffrey Pyne to the murder,” Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said in announcing the indictment.
Family photos show Ruth Pyne, a dental hygienist, holding her children in front of birthday cakes, at Christmas celebrations and on vacations.
The Pynes – who were deeply religious – enrolled their son and daughter at West Highland Christian Academy where Jeffrey Pyne was described as a star student and athlete.
Donna Gundle-Krieg, Jeffrey Pyne’s former English teacher and senior adviser, wrote in an e-mail to Detroit Free Press:
“He was a leader in the school, as well as a straight-A student and a great athlete.
“He was a friend to everyone, caring and polite with a great future. An overall great kid. He loved his mother very much.
“When planning his career, he told me that he wanted to go to school to find a cure for an illness that he mentioned afflicted his mother. He never gave details of the illness.”
From 1998 onwards, things in the seemingly-charmed family changed as Ruth Pyne’s mental health deteriorated, and she would threaten to kill herself and her son.
After this Ruth Pyne was diagnosed with being both bipolar and a paranoid schizophrenic.
Over the coming years, psychiatrists would describe the woman as “angry and violent”, “severely mentally ill”, “a danger to herself and others” and suffering from “acute mania”, court records show.
In 2009, in a petition to the probate court asking that his wife be committed to a mental hospital, Bernard Pyne wrote she was refusing medication, believed a computer chip had been implanted in her daughter and had been “striking our son for no reason”.
Bernard Pyne had sent their young daughter Julia to stay with relatives.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Bernard Payne wrote: “I must work, and can’t monitor her when I work. … She claims that her family could die, and it would not bother her at all.”
Ruth Pyne’s treating psychiatrist wrote on October 7, 2009: “She is likely to deteriorate severely and become a danger to herself and others due to her refusal to accept treatment for her very serious mental illness,” and recommended immediate transport to a mental health hospital for involuntary commitment.
The woman was in and out of hospital and spent time in jail in 2010 after trying to kill her son. The judge released her on $10,000 bond and said she could return home as long as she took her medication in front of her husband.
Nine months later Ruth Pyne was dead, her body found on the garage floor. She was stabbed 16 times and her head bashed repeatedly with a board.
To this day Jeffrey Pyne still claims he was at work as a handyman for a local woman at the time. It is unclear whether he has an alibi and if it holds up.
Jeffrey Pyne is back in court for a pretrial examination on December 20 and the trial is expected to start in late winter or early spring. If convicted, he faces life without parole.
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