Grand Rapids, Michigan-
Jamarion Lawhorn had already been through so much pain in his short 12 years of life. He was a petite boy who appeared several years younger than he was, and the kids at school had bullied him relentlessly. To make matters worse, Jamarion’s mother, Anita Lawhorn, and her boyfriend, Bernard Harrold, were self absorbed crack addicts. The family had lived in absolute squalor, drug paraphernalia littered the family’s rat infested home. There was never any food available, and the kids didn’t have any of the comforts which most of us take for granted; none of the utility bills were ever paid, and they didn’t even have sheets or a blanket on their beds to keep them warm at night. As if all that wasn’t bad enough, Jamarion’s parents were physically abusive.
On August 4th of 2014 Jamarion was bruised from head to toe from one of his stepfather’s frequent “whoopins”. He’d been contemplating a way out of his personal hell for a long time; in his young mind, the only way he could think of to make the abuse stop was to get himself arrested for something terrible. On this date, Jamarion had swallowed a handful of little red pills which he’d discovered inside his drug strewn home, the child grabbed an 8 inch steak knife from his kitchen, and walked out of his mother’s house for the very last time. He’d made up his mind; whatever happened on that day, Jamarion would never be abused by his parents again.
When he came to a playground not too far from his home, Jamarion covered his weapon in the sand before heading off to find some new “friends”. When he ran across 9 years old Connor Verkerke, his 7 year old brother, Kameron, and one their friends, Jamarion asked the boys if they wanted to play; the trio of younger boys happily obliged. Everything was going well, there was no fight, no harsh words, there was no warning that something terrible was about to happen.
About twenty minutes after the 4 boys met, Conner accidentally fell off the slide. It’s at this time when Jamarion attacked; he pulled his hidden knife from the sand, and stabbed Connor a half dozen times in the back. Kameron, who had witnessed the entire attack, helped his big brother home; Connor collapsed on the family porch. The innocent child who loved Cub scouts, camping, and playing with his brothers passed away just after arriving at the hospital; he’d survived just long enough to tell his family just how much they meant to him.
As soon as the deed was done, Jamarion walked straight to a neighboring home and politely asked the owner to dial 911. The child had been under the assumption that, since he’d just attacked and killed someone, the police would immediately come and kill him in return. That was what Jamarion had wanted, that had been his plan; at the very least this kid believed he’d be given the death penalty for his crime. Jamarion told the operator exactly what he’d done, expressed his wish to die, and asked that an officer please be sent over.
The most disturbing part about this whole case is that it was 100% preventable! You see, social services has been very well aware of the life Jamarion had been subjected to; they had known of the drugs, of the abuse, the state of the home, but no one ever lifted a hand to save this boy! There are instances of child abuse dating back to 1996 when Anita lost custody of her older daughters. Her one year old had suffered four broken bones and her 3 year old’s chest had been covered in cigarette burns! Then, in 2013, Anita and Bernard had again been investigated for abusing the children in their care. Jamarion was named as a victim; he had showed the social workers all of his permanent scars from being beaten, often with an electrical cord, and confessed that his parents treated him like their “slave”. Those familiar with the case say it was more like torture than child abuse. Even still, Anita and her lover were not criminally charged; Jamarion and his siblings had been left in the home after Anita and Bernard attended a few worthless parenting classes.
On the day in which Jamarion did the unthinkable he’d been beaten by his mom’s boyfriend, and the man had promised to beat the child again that night. It has been obvious to this boy that no one was ever going to help him; Jamarion, an otherwise good kid who had never been in any sort of serious trouble, could think of no other way out.
The state charged Jamarion as an adult. At the age of 13 this boy was convicted of 1st degree premeditated murder and given a “blended” sentence. He is currently in an northern Michigan juvenile facility called Muskegon River Youth Home, he will remain here until he meets adulthood. At that time it will be decided whether Jamarion will go free or serve more time; this boy could serve life. His attorneys are appealing his sentence.
As for Jamarion’s abusive mother and her boyfriend, both were finally convicted of abusing Jamarion. For this, Anita and Bernard were each sentenced to serve one year in prison and 5 years probation – but get this! The judge has worked with the pair, allowing them to instead serve just 150 days of their sentences and to do so one at a time, you know. Because they still have 3 small children in their custody and this allows them to keep their kids! Anita served her time first, and a couple weeks after she got out, Bernard went away for to serve his 5 months.
Most recent updates available on this case claim that Jamarion’s mother still has not visited her son in jail; she tells Jamarion that she’s coming but, despite the offer of free rides, she never makes the effort. Those close to the situation say they aren’t real sure if visits from Anita would help Jamarion or set him back, but it would be great if someone could pretend to love this baby for even a day!
For his part, Jamarion is a bright young man who is doing well in school. That said, the teen still struggles with a lot of things. He makes no excuses for what he did, but he does suffer some lasting mental health issues such as PTSD and severe depression due to his upbringing. He fully understands the seriousness of what he did to Connor, and has attempted suicide during his incarceration. When asked why he self harms, Jamarion says he doesn’t deserve to live after robbing another boy of his future.
Little Connor’s family has had a terrible time dealing with all this, as you can imagine. Kameron, who witnessed his big brother’s murder, is devastated; he has nightmares that his brothers killer will break out of jail to come kill him. Even seeing their own porch was too much to handle; the family had a go fund me page in which they raised funds to help them move. They raised nearly 26K. Parents Dani & Jared Verkerke have been very outspoken about this case. While they feel Jamarion has been sentenced to what he deserves, they believe Anita should also have been charged with murder.
What do you believe should have happened in this case? Should this boy have been charged as an adult? Should he be set free when he hits adulthood? What should happen to Anita?
*As usual I promise to keep an eye on this case and will update when possible.
A link to Connor’s obituary: