A second jury has convicted Willie Norman Henley of first-degree assault in the brutal attack on a 52-year-old victim, his mother’s boyfriend.
Prosecutors said Henley, 35, stabbed the unarmed victim twice in the back and three times in the chest, piercing his heart. He also slashed the victim so fiercely he exposed the muscles in his arm.
Henley, who has served prison time for other offenses, faces up to 25 years behind bars when sentenced by Erie County Judge Thomas Franczyk on Aug. 4.
A jury in February acquitted Henley of attempted murder in the attack, which followed an argument between Henley and Burnett Hopkins. The jury then deadlocked on the assault charge, 10-2 in favor of conviction.
Buffalo police found Henley in the basement of his mother’s home, covered in the blood of the victim March 17, 2013. Henley initially said an unknown assailant had entered the home and attacked Hopkins, then fled, according to District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.
Later, other defense theories emerged: That Henley acted in self-defense and that a negligent trauma surgeon inflicted the wound to Hopkins’ heart. The trauma surgeon actually saved Hopkins’ life, Sedita said.
The second jury convicted Henley on the assault charge this week.
Henley, formerly of 468 W. Ferry St., is no stranger to violent crime, Sedita said. He spent nearly 15 years in state prison in connection with the kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman. Soon after his release, he was indicted on a felony narcotics charge in connection with his possession of 35 bags of crack cocaine. The case was dismissed in 2013 when a search warrant was successfully challenged in court.