Conviction of man who killed grandfather with hatchet upheld

Trent Humphreys-McPherson
A 2015 mug shot of Trent Humphreys-McPherson from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction and sentence of a Muskegon-area man who murdered his grandfather, saying there’s no way the man didn’t realize that his actions would seriously hurt or kill the victim.

Trent Humphreys-McPherson was found guilty in October 2015 of first-degree murder in the death of 71-year-old Dennis McPherson and sentenced to life in prison. The appeals court decision filed Tuesday says the victim, who died in his Muskegon Township home in January of that year, was struck repeatedly with a hatchet.

Attorneys for Humphreys-McPherson argued, among other things, that the jury should not have been given certain instructions regarding malice of first-degree murder. The court disagreed, citing a definition that describes malice as “the intent to create a very high risk of death or great bodily harm with the knowledge that death or great bodily harm is the probable result.”

“The extensive violence of this attack is sufficient to demonstrate malice … as it cannot be seriously contended in this case that defendant was not subjectively aware that chopping a person with a hatchet in the head, neck, and torso 30 times would cause serious bodily injury or death,” the court wrote in its opinion.

“Further, defense counsel argued only that defendant was not present at the home and did not dispute that the murderer acted with malice,” the ruling continued.

Attorneys also argued that the court should not have allowed testimony regarding prior bad acts at his trial — specifically, testimony from Humphreys-McPherson’s girlfriend regarding previous break-ins at the victim’s home and the home of the girlfriend’s grandfather. The court also disagreed on that count.