Community struggles with homicide of 9-year-old

Michael Connor Verkerke (File photo)

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — The friends of 9-year-old Michael Connor Verkerke, who went by Connor, don’t quite understand that their playmate is gone.

Tuesday night, 7-year-old Brianna Hoort dropped a donation in the glass jar put out at the Pinebrook Village mobile home park’s National Night Out event. The jar bore a hastily written sign that read simply “Help for the Verkerke Family.”

A jar asking for donation for Michael Conner Verkerke's family. (Aug. 5, 2014)
(A jar asking for donation for Michael Conner Verkerke’s family. Aug. 5, 2014)

As she crunched a blue snow cone, Brianna told 24 Hour News 8 she was “sad” about what happened to her friend Conner.

Her mom Laurie Hoort said she wasn’t sure if Brianna really grasped the tragedy.

“You just have to tell [her] he’s in a good home, he’s with God and in a better place,” said Laurie Hoort. “He’s playing on the swing sets up in Heaven.”

Connor was stabbed multiple times in the back Monday as he played on the playground just yards from his home.

The suspect in the case is 12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn, who lived less than a block from Conner’s mobile home park.

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.

Jamarion Lawhorn. (Undated courtesy photo)
(Undated courtesy photo of Jamarion Lawhorn.)

24 Hour News 8 was told Lawhorn asked three boys including Connor if they wanted to play with him at the playground. Then, 24 Hour News 8 was told, Lawhorn pulled a knife out of the sand and started stabbing Connor in the back. Police said Connor was stabbed repeatedly with a kitchen knife.

“This one, we had no idea where this was coming from,” said Laurie Hoort. “This is a very tight, very close community. There are eyes everywhere. Everybody’s looking out for everybody and for this to happen and nobody really… It caught everybody off-guard.”

The management company at the mobile home community has set up a donation account online for Conner’s family.

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