KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — Two days after 9-year-old Michael Connor Verkerke was killed, a vigil was held at the playground where he was stabbed.
Jamarion Lawhorn, 12, was arrested after the stabbing Monday and charged with murder as an adult in juvenile court.
Wednesday night, family and friend gathered for a vigil at the playground in Pinebrook Village mobile home park where Connor was stabbed.
“We want to take a moment to say thank you to the community, to everyone around here for being so strong and loving and kind. You’ve touched their hearts deeply in a way I didn’t know they could be touched,” Connor’s great-uncle Jim Stearns said.
Stearns remembers seeing the little boy just days before the tragic event unfolded.
“Just a few days ago, Connor was at grandma’s house playing around the fire, and I shot some pictures. And I didn’t know it was the last pictures I would see of Connor,” he said.
The family is thankful for the amount of support they have received.
“We embrace each other. We embrace this community. We embrace the spirit of Connor. Anything you can do, send prayers, thoughts, support,” Stearns said.
Among the crowd were Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Connor was also in the organization. His grandmother was his troop leader.
“We always close our meetings with a very special ending. We’re going to do that tonight with a different meaning to the ending,” Sue Fiebig, Connor’s grandmother, said to the troop gathered at the vigil.
“Oh great master of all true scouts, be with us until we meet again, too,” the troop recited in unison.
Stearns said Connor was more than just a typical boy.
“Everybody says they’re so amazing, but this kid was. This kid was amazing! He was the sweetest, angelic kid you ever met,” he said.
Stearns said that above all else, Connor loved his family — which was evident in some of the last words he would ever speak.
Stearns said that as his brother carried Connor home after the stabbing, Connor said, “If anything happens to me, it’s not your fault. I will always love you.”
“The family wants you all to know there is more than tragedy here, there are heroes,” Stearns said. “James, Connor’s very good friend who was there to protect him; his brother who was there to make sure he got home.”
He also said Connor’s parents are thinking about 12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn’s family.
“Their heart goes out to the family of the young boy, ’cause we know that even though we are dealing with a different type of pain, they will be dealing with a similar pain every day for the rest their lives,” Stearns said.
He said the family is focused now on helping Connor’s three siblings.
“Their top priority right now is the mental health of their three remaining children. And that’s not going to be here, it can’t be,” he said.