Anita Lawhorn sentenced to 1 year in jail for child abuse

Anita Lawhorn in court for a custody hearing on Nov. 18, 2015.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Anita Lawhorn and Bernard Harrold have each been sentenced to one year in jail and five years probation for abusing her son Jamarion, Kent County’s youngest convicted killer.

Since the couple has three children in their custody, and in an effort to allow the family to continue the progress already made, Lawhorn will initially serve 150 days in the Kent County jail. Around two weeks after she is released, Harrold will serve 150 days jail. The remainder of the jail sentences will be served at the end of their probation or whenever Judge Paul Sullivan orders.

With third-degree child abuse convictions, Lawhorn and Harrold could have each received two years in prison, which prosecutors asked for. But Judge Sullivan said he didn’t think giving the pair two years behind bars would be good for them or Jamarion’s siblings.

“I suspect that whatever sentence I hand down, people are going to have a problem with it. They’re going to think this is ridiculous. There will be people very unhappy with one side or the other,” Sullivan said.

When it was her turn to speak before the sentence was announced, a sobbing Lawhorn apologized to everyone: her family, the judge, the family of the boy Jamarion murdered and Jamarion himself.

“I think over and over and over again what could I have done different, is all that happened my fault and what kind of help could I have gotten for my son,” she said. “I want to say I’m sorry to Jamarion and I wish I could have seen the warning signs and I want him to know that he will always be my son and I will always be here for him no matter what.”

Jamarion, 13, was recently sentenced for murdering 9-year-old Connor Verkerke on a Kentwood playground in August 2014. At the time, he told police he hated his life, felt no one loved him and wanted to die. Prosecutors said it was abuse from his mother and stepfather that made him feel that way and led to the murder.

“That full year (of jail time) is meant to take into account the fact that ultimately we have another unrelated young child dead, which I believe is caused at least partly by these acts,” Judge Sullivan said.

“I want to say I’m sorry to the Verkerkes. I feel their pain every day and I couldn’t imagine how they feel losing their child, but I’m sorry,” Lawhorn said.

He said a key part of the probation will be based on parenting. He said the use of drugs or alcohol or slipping into the parenting problems they have been fixing could result in them being sent to prison.

Lawhorn’s defense attorney, Jeff Crampton, said he thinks his client has essentially been on probation since the murder and that if it were up to him, she wouldn’t be behind bars now.

“If she had been charged initially right away, had the state reported it, she would have gotten probation nothing else,” Crampton said.

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