Counselor: Jamarion Lawhorn struggling at youth home

Jamarion ws 12 when he stabbed and killed 9-year-old Connor Verkerke

Jamarion Lawhorn
Jamarion Lawhorn in court for an evaluation on Nov. 10, 2016.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Jamarion Lawhorn is Kent County’s youngest convicted murderer.

Thursday, he came to the Kent County Courthouse for his twice-yearly evaluation.

Connor Verkerke.
Connor Verkerke.

He has been behind bars since August 2014, when, at age 12, he used a knife he had hidden on a Kentwood playground to fatally stab 9-year-old Connor Verkerke. After Jamarion was found guilty of murder, he was given a blended sentence that ordered him to the Muskegon River Youth Home in northern Michigan until he is an adult. Depending on his progress at the youth home, the state will decide what, if any, additional prison time he may receive as an adult.

Thursday, experts told a judge that Jamarion, now 14, is doing well academically and has taken responsibility for his actions.

“Jamarion is processing the seriousness of the crime that he committed,” said Melissa Emory, a youth home counselor.

But she also said Jamarion has been harming himself.

“Jamarion turned his frustration inward and did have a suicide attempt,” Emory said. “Jamarion has an idea in his mind that because he took a life, he doesn’t deserve to live.”

The young murderer told the judge that he knows that everyone knows what he has done. Judge Paul Denenfeld asked him when he thinks about harming himself.

“It’s more like when I get regretful,” the boy said in response.

“Regretful for what?” the judge asked.

“That I done it,” Jamarion replied.

Experts who watch over Jamarion say that he has been all but abandoned by his mother, Anita Lawhorn. She was convicted of child abuse against Jamarion, with authorities saying she either participated in his abuse or allowed it to happen at the hands of his stepfather.

“He has been very open about a lot of things, heinous things. It goes beyond the word abuse, in my opinion. It borders on torture that he’s endured,” said Steve Wheeler, one of Jamarion’s counselors.

“Jamarion made it very clear that his intent is never to return to his parent’s home again,” said Dennis Chitwood, another counselor.

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

Since Jamarion has been at the juvenile home near Cadillac, his mother has seen him a total of four times. She has not been to see regularly him despite the facility telling her at least monthly visits are needed. The home offered to drive her to the facility to visit, but she has not shown up.

“Today is yet another disappointment regarding Ms. Lawhorn not being here in the support of him,” Emory said.

Jamarion’s counselors say not seeing his mom and siblings has been a problem.

“As a result of her being so inconsistent, it does lead to mood swings on his end,” probation officer Dan Coery said.

The counselors were divided over whether the court should order the mother to visit — some saying it could benefit Jamarion’s rehabilitation and others saying it could do more harm than good.

“I do not see his mother as following through, in fact, bring greater disappointment,” Chitwood said.

Jamarion said he doesn’t think his mother should be forced to come. He said he spoke to his mother about her lack of visits, but said she only makes excuses and he does not believe she is being honest with him.

In the end, the judge decided that the mom should be encouraged to come, but did not order her to do so.

24 Hour News 8 was unable to contact Anita Lawhorn Thursday.