KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — As he sat in court, charged with stabbing a 9-year-old boy to death at a playground, 12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn looked more like an 8-year-old.
He is tiny, but he wore shackles on his hands and feet, as his mom put her hand on his shoulder.
On Tuesday, Lawhorn became the youngest person ever charged with murder in Kent County history, and among the youngest ever in Michigan. He’s charged with open murder for the death of 9-year-old Michael “Connor” Verkerke.
It was just Monday at the Pinebrook Village Mobile Home Park that Lawhorn asked three boys he didn’t know — including Connor — if they wanted to go play with him at the playground, the mother of one of those boys told 24 Hour News 8.
“There were three boys at that park, he picked a random one,” said Tiffany Armijo, whose 9-year-old son witnessed the stabbing of his best friend.
24 Hour News 8 is identifying Lawhorn, who turned 12 in March, because he is charged as an adult, and because of the seriousness of the charge.
Armijo said her son was one of the three boys approached by Lawhorn on Monday. Her son told her that Lawhorn walked up to them in the mobile home park and asked if they wanted to play.
“He came to our street and got the kids to go to the park,” she said.
Her son told her they all went to the playground together.
“The kids were talking to him, asking, ‘Where you from, what you doing?’”
Then, her son told her, Lawhorn pulled a knife out of the sand and started stabbing Connor in the back. Police said it was a kitchen knife and that Connor was stabbed repeatedly.
“It was random, there was no reason, it wasn’t provoked, they weren’t fighting, there was no words exchanged, it was just malicious,” Armijo said.
Connor reached his home and collapsed.
Armijo’s son ran to his home across the street, yelling: “Lock the door, lock the door, everybody get in the house!’ He was scared to death.”
Lawhorn ran to a nearby house and called 911 himself, said he had taken pills, had stabbed somebody and wanted to die.
“The young man approached my house wanting to borrow my phone,” witness Glen Stacey said.
“I assumed he wanted to call his mother. And he said, ‘Hi. I stabbed someone. Please pick me up.’ So I calmly started doing my normal stuff. I didn’t want to agitate him.”
Stacey then called police.
Police are trying to confirm that the attack was random.
“I think everybody in the community wants to know why? What brought us to this point?” Kentwood Police Chief Tom Hillen said.
The young suspect lives about a block west of the mobile home park. He has no record, no contact with juvenile court.
Relatives, including his mom, Anita Lawhorn, were in court with him today, but left without comment.
During his court appearance, a judge asked Lawhorn if he understood the charge against him.
Lawhorn, who appeared to be unaffected, said that he did.
Lawhorn is being held in a juvenile facility without bond.
Connor’s family said they were too shaken to talk, but his best friend’s mom remembered a boy who often brightened up her home.
“He was over at my house every day,” Armijo said. “He always had a smile on his face, he was a very happy kid, very energetic.”
She said she hadn’t told her son that his best friend died.
“I have no idea how to explain it to my son. I haven’t even thought about it yet. I’ve been dreading it all day.”
If he’s found guilty, Lawhorn could be held in a juvenile facility until he is 21, then a judge could decide whether to send him to prison. However, he can’t go to prison for life without parole.