Jamarion to police: ‘She’s just trying to be a mom’

Anita Lawhorn listens during the second day of testimony in her trial for child abuse. (Sept. 17, 2015)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The interview with Jamarion Lawhorn started with small talk about his 13th birthday party at juvenile detention and his new shoes before it turned to “whuppings” with belts and extension cords.

But when it came to the marks on his legs — allegedly left by his mom — Jamarion refused to talk.

“I don’t think it’s none of your business,” Jamarion told a Kentwood detective. “I think you’re trying to get me to get my mom in trouble and she’s innocent. She don’t do nothing wrong. She’s just trying to be a mom.”

Prosecutors played the audio recording of the interview Thursday in the child abuse trial of Jamarion’s mom, Anita Lawhorn. She’s charged with third- and fourth-degree child abuse for allegedly hitting Jamarion with a belt in May 2013.

They contend Jamarion, who won’t testify in the trial after invoking his Fifth Amendment right, is protecting his mom.

The alleged abuse happened 15 months before Jamarion, then 12, fatally stabbed 9-year-old Connor Verkerke on a Kentwood playground. Witnesses have said he wanted to kill somebody so he could end his own miserable life.

Kentwood Detective Erin Kitchka interviewed Jamarion in March 2015, more than six months after he was charged with first-degree murder. The interview quickly turned to whuppings by his mom and his stepdad.

“My brothers and sisters, they used to get whuppings with a belt, but I used to get whuppings with an extension cord,” Jamarion said.

He got it for being naughty — for acting out in school, for setting paper on fire at a school, for setting his mom’s bed on fire. He said his mom hit him with a belt, his stepdad sometimes with an extension cord, once for letting his sister climb a fence — punishments he downplayed.

“I got a whupping with an extension cord, but it didn’t make no bruises on me,” he said.

The whuppings, he said, were spankings, not beatings.

He also recalled his stepdad punching him after catching him playing with a toy gun.

“He don’t like us playing with guns because he doesn’t want us to grow up to be a shooter, so he’d punch us in the chest,” Jamarion said.

Jamarion refused to talk about Children’s Protective Services.

“No, I don’t care about them,” he said.

Minutes after he refused to talk about the scars on his legs, the detective pushed him again for answers.

“The one thing I guess that I don’t get is why you don’t want to tell me about the marks on your leg and how they got there if it’s just, like you said,  a whupping, a spanking?” Kitchka asked him.

“I’m done talking,” said Jamarion, who then pushed away from the table.

==Below, listen to the full recording of Jamarion’s interview with the detective.==

On Thursday, CPS workers testified that Anita Lawhorn admitted to them that she hit her son with a belt and left marks in May 2013. One thought it was for stealing, another recalled it was for forging his stepdad’s signature on a school paper.

“She stated that she was angry, her anger got ahold of her and that she used a lot of force. She was mad, that she had a lot of energy because of her anger. She was very upset with him, ” CPS investigator Paula Leonard testified.

“She reported that the marks were on the butt, she had hit him on the butt and on the back of the legs,” CPS Supervisor Nyela Bolden testified.

They interviewed Lawhorn after her son was accused of murder. They say Lawhorn told them it was the first — and only time — she had left a mark on her kids.

“She was feeling guilty about it, and she really seemed to soften during that part of the interview,” Leonard said.

Lawhorn’s attorney, Jeffery Crampton, has argued it was Jamarion’s stepdad, Bernard Harrold, who left the marks with an extension cord. Harrold has pleaded guilty to abuse. He is expected to testify for the defense on Friday.

Also Thursday, Kirsten Harder, the original CPS caseworker on the abuse complaint in 2013, admitted she made a mistake when she failed to call police.

“It was a very unfortunate oversight on my behalf,” she testified. “There was quite a bit going on in this case and I overlooked it and it was a mistake.”

The state suspended her without pay for five days and took away her caseload for six months. She said she has since voluntarily taken a new job as a foster care monitor for the state.

Other CPS caseworkers defended Harder on the witness stand. State law required CPS to take steps to remove Jamarion from his mother’s care in 2013 because of her history of abuse involving other kids in New York. But they say that worker didn’t know about the past abuse when Jamarion left Michigan to live with his dad in June 2013. By then, they said, Jamarion was out of Harder’s jurisdiction.

Jamarion returned to Kentwood in June 2014, less than two months before killing Connor.

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