Therapist: Kent County’s youngest killer ‘doing well’

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

Jamarion Lawhorn
Jamarion Lawhorn at a hearing in Kent County on May 17, 2017.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Jamarion Lawhorn, Kent County’s youngest killer, is now getting regular visits and calls from his mom.

That’s because his victim’s grandmother, despite her own loss, is regularly driving Anita Lawhorn to visit Jamarion at the Muskegon River Youth Home — a 160-mile round trip.

“That’s really totally extraordinary,” Jamarion’s attorney, Charles Clapp, said at a hearing Wednesday.

“It goes beyond forgiveness,” Jamarion’s therapist, Melissa Emmorey, said.

Lawhorn no longer looks like the little 12-year-old boy who killed 9-year-old Connor Verkerke in August 2014.

Connor Verkerke.

He stabbed Connor, a boy he didn’t know, on a Kentwood playground. He said he did it because he wanted to die himself. He had lived a life of abuse.

He’s 15 now and still being held at the Muskegon River Youth Home, a locked-down center near Evart.

“Jamarion, I have to tell you, every time we see you, you look a little older, a little more mature,” Kent County Circuit Judge Paul Denenfeld told him at a six month review hearing.

Jamarion Lawhorn awaits sentencing Nov. 4, 2015.

“Overall, Jamarion has improved pretty significantly since the last hearing,” his therapist said. “He’s doing very well.”

Perhaps the biggest change is that his mom, convicted of abusing him before the murder, is now in regular contact with him, according to testimony.

“Jamarion gets very happy when he sees his mom and his siblings,” his therapist said. “He definitely appears to be more motivated.”

Jamarion Lawhorn, Anita Lawhorn
Jamarion Lawhorn and his mother, Anita Lawhorn, at a hearing on May 17, 2017.

“I see maturity and I see him growing,” Anita Lawhorn told 24 Hour News 8 after Wednesday’s hearing. “He’s doing so much better than he was a few years ago. It’s like my son is coming back, my son that I know, that I remember. I’m starting to see him come back.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, Jamarion responded to the judge’s questions with one-word answers.

“How do you think you’re doing?” the judge asked.

“Good,” he answered.

He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is on a new medication, “which has drastically reduced his flashbacks and his night terrors,” probation officer Dan Corey told the judge.

While he still thinks about suicide, he no longer acts on those thoughts and is showing remorse, according to testimony.

“He certainly has taken full responsibility,” his probation officer said.

“He feels bad,” his mom said. “He’s been talking about wanting to apologize to people, and I really just think he’s maturing. I want him to come home.”

The juvenile system has jurisdiction over Lawhorn until he’s 19. On Wednesday, Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Vicki Seidl said the prosecutor’s office plans to ask the judge to extend that until Lawhorn is 21.

The goal, she said, is to get him to a point where he won’t have to go to an adult prison, which means he would be a free man.