13-Year-Old Jamarion Lawhorn Sentenced
13-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn, the young boy who has been convicted of fatally stabbing a younger boy at a Kentwood playground last August, has been sentenced.
Judge Paul J. Denenfield sentenced the boy to be incarcerated at the Muskegon River Youth Home in Evart, Mich. for the next 8 years (until he turns 21-years-old). He was given a "blended sentence" which means that he may be moved to an adult prison upon release, but that will be decided by the court at that time.
Connor Verkerke's family took the stand at the sentencing to describe how this has affected their family. Dani Verkerke, Connor's mother, took the stand talking about the toll that her son's death has taken on her family. She also spoke of her own past experience with abuse, and stated that the abuse inflicted on Jamarion should not be factored into his sentencing.
Connor's younger brother also spoke in the courtroom of how his brother's death has affected him, "Sometimes when I wake up at night, I wonder where my brother Connor is." He also stated that it's hard to make new friends because he's afraid that they "might be like Jamarion". He ended by saying "Connor was my first best friend and I will miss him forever."
Jared Verkerke, Connor's father, also spoke, saying he relives the horror of the day his son was murdered every day. He says his memories make a horror movie seem "docile by comparison."
A representative for Lawhorn relayed a story from a local Reverend who has been working with the boy, and also a letter from a youth specialist at the juvenile detention center where Jamarion has been incarcerated since his arrest who stated that they "would not consider him to be a threat to society". His guardian ad litem also spoke on his behalf, stating that she believes that he is fully capable of being rehabilitated.
Lawhorn himself then took the stand. He started by saying "I am sorry for my actions." He also stated that he does not like what he did, and knows that Verkerke's family does not either. His statement included many apologies to the family.
Over the summer, a Kent County judge ruled that Lawhorn was competent to assist in his own defense for the slaying of Connor Verkerke at the Pinewood Village mobile home park in August 2014. Lawhorn was convicted of the murder in early September.
Lawhorn's mother, Anita Lawhorn, was present in the courtroom for the sentencing. She sat behind her son in a prison uniform and handcuffs wiping away tears.
Last October, Lawhorn’s mother and stepfather were charged with third degree child abuse after Jamarion told a Child Protective Services caseworker that his stepfather had whipped him with an extension cord, and also sometimes punched him in the chest and stomach. Jamarion also claimed that his mother had recently whipped him with a belt on his backside and the back of his legs.