GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The 911 caller was eerily calm.
“Can I have a police officer at 5657 Madison?” Jamarion Lawhorn, then 12, asked the dispatcher in a voice that sounded almost mature.
“And what’s happening there?”
“I just stabbed someone.”
“Who was it that you stabbed?”
“I don’t know. I’m fed up with life.”
Jamarion had stabbed 9-year-old Connor Verkerke repeatedly on Aug. 4, 2014 on a nearby playground and left him to die — a victim picked at random.
In a recording of the 911 call, played Tuesday for the jury at Jamarion’s murder trial, he spelled his name for the dispatcher, then started sounding more angry, apparently as people approached him.
“They’re going to come and kill me,” he said, then yelled, “Of course I did it. But I’m fed up with life and I want to die.”
Jamarion’s attorney, Charles Boekeloo, argued he was legally insane at the time — the result of a miserable life of beatings and threats by his stepfather and mother. He said the threats were made even in the week before the stabbing.
“He had no choice,” Boekeloo told the jury in his opening statement. “This was his only way out. He even tried to kill himself and that failed.”
But Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Bramble said Jamarion was cold and calculated, that he had planned the stabbing for a year, hid the kitchen knife in the playground sand and even took off his shirt so he didn’t get blood on it.
“He went looking for someone he didn’t know, and that someone turned out to
be Connor Verkerke,” Bramble said. “His actions clearly show he understood
the wrongfulness of his conduct. He knew to call police because he knew it was wrong.”
Among the witnesses Tuesday were Connor’s little brother, Kameron Verkerke, who just turned 9.
He said he had never seen Jamarion, who lived several blocks away, until the boy showed up in his family’s yard and asked if he could play. Kameron asked Jamarion his name. They walked to the nearby playground.
Kameron first saw the knife, a big kitchen knife, minutes later when Jamarion pulled it from the sand and started to clean it.
“I asked him if I could bring it to my mom,” he testified.
Then it got scary — really scary. Connor somehow fell, which is when Jamarion attacked.
“Jamarion just started stabbing him,” Kameron said.
He remembered five times. He saw blood coming from his brother’s back, then later from his mouth.
He said his brother told him, “I love you,” even as he was bleeding to death.
The boys’ dad, Jared Verkerke, said Kameron was in a “complete, total state of duress,” when he got home. “He said, ‘Somebody’s at the park killing Connor.” He tried to save his son’s life on their porch.
The boys’ mom, Dani Verkerke, said she first saw Connor bleeding on their porch.
“Blood was coming out of his mouth like a river,” she said. “It was all over my husband, all over my porch.”
On Tuesday, in court, Kameron saw the knife for the first time in more than a year, and it got scary again.
“Is that the knife?” he asked.
It took at least seven minutes for police to reach Connor after the 911 call and about 11 minutes to get to Jamarion, who was waiting to be handcuffed and angry police didn’t come for him first.
AMR paramedic Joshua Lechner testified that he was called to the scene where Jamarion was taken into custody, and that the boy was already in handcuffs by the time he arrived.
He was told Jamarion had taken some of his mother’s pills.
“He was talking clearly and calmly,” Lechner said.
Jamarion also wasn’t demonstrating any signs of remorse, Lechner said. Tests showed his pulse and blood pressure were normal.
Under cross-examination, Lechner said Jamarion was calmer than he would have expected, almost sedate, as he talked about wanting to be killed.
“He said he was counting on the justice system killing him,” Lechner testified.
He described the boy’s demeanor as “eerie.”
The trial, presided over by Kent County Family Court Judge Paul Denenfeld, is expected to continue through at least Thursday. Jamarion is being tried as an adult in juvenile court.
**Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified which assistant prosecutor gave the opening statement.