What it’s like at the facility where Jamarion is going

The teen apologized to Connor Verkerke's family ahead of his sentencing Nov. 4, 2015.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County’s youngest convicted killer is expected serve the next eight years in a facility surrounded by razor wire, spending his days in programs aimed at rehabilitating him.

Jamarion Lawhorn was 12 years old when he fatally stabbed 9-year-old Connor Verkerke on a Kentwood playground in August 2014. Now 13, on Wednesday he received a blended sentence that includes time at a youth home. He’s headed to the Muskegon River Youth Home with the possibility of prison if he misbehaves.

Some WOOD TV8 viewers agreed with the sentence, but others felt it wasn’t harsh enough.

While a boys’ home may seem like a pleasant place compared to prison, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office says it’s no summer camp.

“They’re not out getting picnics,” said Vicki Seidl, the chief assistant prosecutor in the juvenile division. “It literally is a locked, secured facility and I don’t anticipate him leaving there any time soon.”

The home is located in Evart, which is a little more than an hour northeast of Grand Rapids, just south of Cadillac.

“They have razor wires just like you would get at any other prison,” Seidl said. “They’re locked into their rooms every night.”

It’s essentially a prison for kids.

“Everything that we need to keep society safe from Lawhorn but give him rehabilitation is occurring at that facility,” Seidl said.

Jamarion will be housed in the most secure area of the facility under 24-hour supervision.

“He’s not free to do anything at all, really,” Seidl said.

His days will consist of  individual and group counseling, school and other rehabilitation services.

“He’s not out doing stuff with a bunch of other kids, having fun, playing cards,” Seidl said.

Before Jamarion’s conviction, Keishawn Mann held the record of Kent County’s youngest murderer. In 2010, he was found guilty of killing his mother’s boyfriend. He was 13 at the time.

Mann was also sent to Muskegon River Youth Home. Now 18, he is still there and has shown improved behavior — so much so that the judge has allowed him to move to a less secure area.

The prosecutor’s office hopes Keishawn will be a mentor to Jamarion.

Jamarion still faces the possibility of life in prison when he goes before a judge again at age 21, but could also be set free if the judge feels he has been rehabilitated.

It costs about $300 per day to lodge someone at the Muskegon River Youth Home. That’s more expensive than prison, but the idea is that the kids will be rehabilitated and out of the system earlier, which will save taxpayers money in the long run.

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