Boy, 12, charged as adult in fatal stabbing of 9-year-old

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WZZM/AP) -- A 12 year-old boy is being charged as an adult with open murder in the deadly stabbing of a 9-year-old boy at a playground.

Jamarion Lawhorn pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon in Kent County Family Court. WZZM is identifying the minor because he is being charged as an adult.

Lawhorn's accused of repeatedly stabbing Michael Conner Verkerke in the back at the Pinebrook Village mobile home park Monday evening.

Neighbors say Conner, as he was called, ran screaming to his home and collapsed bleeding on his porch. He died later at a hospital Monday evening.

Lawhorn used a neighbor's phone to call 911 and turn himself in. He was arrested and taken to the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center.

"We were sitting on our deck," said Barb Poelman. "We heard the kids run across the front ... screaming. He (Conner) ran with the kids that were with him."

A little later Poelman, 60, said the boy's distraught mother lay on the grass outside the family's home in Kentwood.

"She was screaming 'Where is the ambulance?' while her boy was laying on the porch bleeding," Poelman said. "The kids, I thought they were just playing."

Witnesses told investigators that four children were playing when Lawhorn, for unknown reasons, pulled a knife and stabbed the boy.

Glen Stacy, who lives nearby, described Lawhorn as "very calm."

"The only time he raised his voice was when the police came," Stacy said.

When police arrived at the mobile home park, they first went to aid the stabbing victim, but Lawhorn wanted the officers to pick him up and yelled, "Hello. I'm right here. You're going the wrong way," according to Stacy.

The motive in the attack was still being investigated, said Kentwood Police Chief Thomas Hillen.

Police said Lawhorn was evaluated at a hospital before being taken to the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center.

An autopsy is planned by the Kent County Medical Examiner's Office.

Family and friends are planning a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the playground to memorialize Conner.

In court Tuesday, Lawhorn's defense attorney asked for a competency evaluation to make sure he understands the case against him.

He will be tried in family court, and could be given an adult sentence, but will not receive a mandatory life sentence because of recent changes to the law.

"He would be tried as an adult but in family court so he would have an adult conviction and probably a blended sentence, but he could not get life in prison pursuant to the recently passed rule about that," says Laura Clifton, Kent County assistant prosecuting attorney.

If convicted, Lawhorn would be held in a juvenile facility until he's 21. Every three months, his behavior would be evaluated to determine whether he should be released or not. Once he's 21, he would either be released or sent to an adult prison.


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