State: Murder suspect, 12, victim of abuse

Jamarion Lawhorn is charged with murder as an adult in the death of 9-year-old Michael Connor Verkerke.

KENTWOOD — A year before 12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn admitted to stabbing a 9-year-old boy to death on a playground, he was the victim of abuse at the hands of his mother and stepfather, according to court records obtained by Target 8.

He lived in a “deplorable” home with no utilities, no sheets or blankets on the beds, cocaine paraphernalia in the bathroom and little food in the kitchen, court records show.

Records show his mother, Anita Lawhorn, has a history of child abuse cases dating back to 1996 — that she voluntarily gave up young daughters in New York after allegations involving broken bones and apparent cigarette burns.

Bill Verkerke, the grandfather of victim Connor Verkerke, said that after learning about Jamarion’s background from Target 8, he is angry at the mother and the state.

“Anger is a justifiable emotion, but it’s worse than anger,” Verkerke said. “You can’t be mad at that child, the 12-year-old. What are you going to do to the state? I don’t know what you do with them. Could sue them I guess, but that won’t change anything.”

Jamarion stabbed Connor to death on a Kentwood playground for no reason other than that he wanted to die himself.

He told police he’d always been in trouble and had gotten teased in school, but those reports mentioned nothing about the abuse he’d suffered at home, or his mom’s long history of abuse.

Within days of the killing, the state temporarily removed Anita Lawhorn’s remaining three children, ages two to 14. Jamarion is still locked up.

Last week, it petitioned to permanently take away her parental rights to all four children.

“She should be held criminally accountable,” Connor’s grandfather said. “Not only for what she did to her son… but maybe for what her son did to my grandson.”

Anita Lawhorn could not be reached for comment Monday.

Michigan Department of Human Services spokesman Bob Wheaton said the agency could not comment on the case because of privacy.

Records show a long history of abuse.

Anita Lawhorn voluntarily gave up two other kids in 1999 in New York, three years after her 1-year-old daughter was found with four broken bones, and her 3-year-old girl had apparent cigarette burns on her chest.

In 2004, Michigan Child Protective Services investigated her for child abuse.

Then, in 2013, it substantiated allegations of child abuse against her and Jamarion’s stepfather. Jamarion was the victim.

They went through parenting programs, but they were not charged with abuse.

Jamarion’s father, Lonnell Washington Sr., of Geneva, NY, told Target 8 that his son came to live with him after the 2013 abuse.

Then, in June, after Jamarion returned to Michigan to visit for a week, his mother refused send him back to New York, the father said.

After the playground stabbing, police found a home that was not fit for kids.

They also found bruises on Jamarion. He had told other that his stepfather put them there, records show.

Anita Lawhorn told police that she and the stepfather “have been continuously threatening to give Jamarion Lawhorn a ‘whoppin’ on a daily basis, despite knowing the physical abuse history in the home and receiving services to change their parenting practices,” according to records.

Both the mom and the stepfather recently tested positive for cocaine.

Connor’s grandfather says it’s clear Jamarion needed help.

“Maybe even a hug would have done, you know. Maybe Connor could have gave him a hug,” Verkerke said. “I’m sure he would have given him a hug. If he’d known he needed one, he’d have given him one. He was that kind of kid.”


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