DETROIT — Following more than a week of national controversy, a 54-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Renisha McBride, the 19-year-old woman who was killed as she stood on the porch of his Dearborn Heights home.
Theodore Wafer will be prosecuted for the death of McBride, who reports say had wandered about a half mile to his front door after the car she was driving hit a parked car on Nov 2. The case has inflamed racial tensions around the country—McBride was black, Wafer is white—and drawn comparisons to the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.
The charges mark the first time Wafer’s name has been publicly disclosed, and few details are known about the man at the center of the case.
According to a former girlfriend who asked not to be identified, Wafer was a heavy drinker during at least part of his life. She has not seen or spoke with him in many years.
In an interview this week with The Daily Beast, the woman said she met Wafer in the mid-90s when he was driving a truck for a local auto parts distributor and she worked for an auto manufacturer. Wafer came from a large family and grew up in the Detroit area. She never knew him to have firearms in the year or so they were acquainted.
“He drank a lot, but he was never violent,” the woman said. She added that she did not believe Wafer to be a racist by any stretch. Wafer’s attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, declined to comment for this article.
Wafer would often ride a bike or taxi to drinking establishments in his neighborhood rather than risk driving, the woman said. “He was very conscious of losing his license and his job,” she said.
He was nearsighted, she said, and wore thick glasses.
She said her relationship with Wafer was nothing serious and ended in a civil dispute with Wafer with legal expenses of $3,000 on her end. “I ran into Ted a while later after than and I was not friendly,” she said. She told him the costs she had incurred. A few days later she came home to find $3,000 in cash stuffed in a bag inside her door.
Wafer obtained the house he lives in, a corner lot in a residential enclave just north of the Detroit city limits, through family when a relative died, she said. He has lived there since 1994.
“I think he was the one in the family who had the least resources and so they arranged for him to take the house,” she said. “I can’t say for sure, but he may have been the baby of the family.”
Wafer also had a habit of leaving lights on in his house during the night, and she speculated that McBride could have seen the lights and thought someone was awake, if indeed she was seeking help as some reports have stated.
Toxicology reports found McBride was drunk, with a blood alcohol content of .218, almost three times the legal driving limit of .08.
A 911 tape released indicated that Wafer called police after he shot McBride to report the incident, then hung up. He called back and told police that he didn’t know who it was he had shot.
McBride was lying on the porch after the shooting, according to the tape.
In a press conference announcing the charges Friday, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said the shooting took place at 4:45 a.m. on that Saturday morning, rather than 3:40 a.m., making it almost four hours after a call came in to Detroit police of a parked car struck by McBride.
Worthy said the shooting was unjustified: “We don’t believe he acted in lawful self defense.”
She downplayed the racial element as did the McBride family attorney Gerald Thurswell in an interview with The Daily Beast.
“We make our decisions based on the facts and the evidence,” Worthy said. “It’s always interesting to me what the public makes its decisions on when it comes to one way or the other. We have the facts we have the evidence and we make our decision on that and that alone.”