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Judge mulls fate of woman responsible for 'despicable, horrible' murder committed as teen

A Muskegon County judge will decide whether Amy Black, now 46, remains in prison for life or is given a term of years for the 1990 murder of David VanBogelen.

MUSKEGON, Mich — The fate of convicted killer Amy Black rests in the hands of a Muskegon County judge, who heard closing statements Wednesday in a hearing that will determine if Black dies in prison or is eventually released for a murder she committed at the age of 16.

"She does shed tears; tears of recognition for what she has done to another family,’’ defense attorney Kimberly Stout told the judge Wednesday in asking for a term of years, rather than life in prison.

Muskegon County Assistant Prosecutor Amol Huprikar says Black should remain locked up for her role in the 1990 murder of David VanBogelen, a married father of two. His frozen body was found propped up against a tree.

The circumstances of the crime, Huprikar said, “really does show somebody that has an advanced mental process towards criminality.’’

“I contend there is nothing about this individual crime that shows an impetuous act,’’ he said. “There are a lot of factors here that do show that this act wasn’t immature, wasn’t something that was impetuous.’’

Since she’s been in prison, Black has been “unable to keep herself free of criminal conduct,’’ and has gotten 84 misconduct violations, Huprikar said.

For two days, Muskegon County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Hicks heard from psychologists and others about Black’s background and childhood, her murderous act and her efforts at rehabilitation while in prison.

The testimony, along with exhibits and other evidence, will be used to determine whether Black stays in prison for the rest of her life or eventually gets out.

“This issue is not if this was a despicable, horrible thing that happened to David (VanBogelen),’’ Hicks said. “It was. I have to figure out whether this is a case where Miss Black should be resentenced to a term of years.’’

It’s a similar decision facing judges across Michigan, and is rooted in a 2012 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that mandatory life sentences for juveniles amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Life sentences are still possible, but only under the rarest of circumstances.

Black is one of seven so-called “juvenile lifers’’ awaiting a resentencing hearing in Muskegon County. 

Black’s co-defendant, Jeffery T. Abrahamson, now 50, is serving life without parole. He was 19 when the murder took place.

At the time of his death, David VanBogelen was 34 and had a management position at a local foundry. 

He was a devoted husband and father who also shared a passion for motorcycles with friends and family.

He crossed paths with his killers at a restaurant, where VanBogelen had gone after an evening out with friends. Abrahamson and Black saw he had a wad of cash and appeared intoxicated. They invited him back to their apartment in Muskegon Heights.

It is there, police say, Black beat VanBogelen over the head with a weighted whiskey bottle.

Black and Abrahamson then led David VanBogelen to his company pickup, stuffed him inside and drove to a remote area near Brooks and Ellis roads in Fruitport Township where Abrahamson stabbed him numerous times.

They left VanBogelen along a two-track, cleaned up blood from the apartment and the pickup and took off for Barry County. They were arrested there three days later.

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