DETROIT (Reuters) - A white suburban Detroit homeowner will face trial in June on a second-degree murder charge that he shot to death an unarmed young black woman who knocked on his door seeking help early one November morning, a judge ruled on Wednesday.
Theodore Wafer, 54, stood silent as his attorneys entered a not guilty plea during a brief hearing before Wayne County Judge Qiana Denise Lillard. Wafer is scheduled to stand trial from June 2 through June 13.
Wafer is accused of killing Renisha McBride, 19, on his front porch with a shotgun blast to the face in the racially charged case that sparked protests in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, and comparisons to the 2012 shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
A judge in Dearborn Heights in December ordered Wafer bound over to state circuit court, which in Michigan hears all criminal cases that could result in prison sentences. He was arraigned Wednesday on charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter and a felony firearms count.
Attorneys for Wafer argued during a preliminary examination in December before Dearborn Heights Judge David Turfe that the airport maintenance worker who cares for his elderly mother was afraid for his life that morning.
McBride had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit for driving in Michigan when she died and had crashed a car hours before, according to witnesses who testified for prosecutors at the preliminary examination.
A woman who reported the crash testified, however, that McBride appeared confused and injured, but not combative. Turfe said Wafer could have called for help or not answered the door rather than going to the door armed.
Wafer called 911 afterward to report the incident and police have said he told officers he fired the fatal shot, but that it was accidental.
(Reporting by Joseph Lichterman in Detroit and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Eric Walsh and Rosalind Russell)