When Worlds Collide – The Sad Case of Jamarion Lawhorn & Connor Verkerke

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30th August 2021  •  8 min read

In 2014, 12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn took some "red little pills" he had found in his home & stabbed another child to death. He expected that when police arrived at the scene, they would shoot him dead. He told them: "I want to die. I don't want to be on this earth anymore." An investigation revealed…


When Worlds Collide - The Sad Case of Jamarion Lawhorn & Connor Verkerke

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It was the 4th of August, 2014, when 12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn took some “little red pills” that he had found in his family’s home in Kentwood, Michigan. He then picked up a knife, put it in his pocket and walked to Pinebrook Village, which was a mobile home community. Here, he entered the playpark.

Over the course of the next several minutes, Jamarion played with nine-year-old Connor Verkerke and his seven-year-old brother, Kameron. As they played together, Connor attempted to climb up a slide but slipped back down and fell to the ground. While on the ground, Jamarion came up behind him and stabbed him several times in the back and arm.

Connor and his younger brother ran back to their home which was located nearby. Connor collapsed on the front porch and neighbours could hear his mother’s screams emanating in the air. His father, Jared, frantically put pressure on his son’s wounds in a bid to stop the bleeding. Connor was rushed to hospital where he was tragically pronounced dead.

When Worlds Collide - The Sad Case of Jamarion Lawhorn & Connor Verkerke
Connor Verkerke.

Following the stabbing, Jamarion walked to the home of a man who lived near the playpark, 34-year-old Glen Stacy. He asked if he could use his phone to call 911 and calmly stated to the operator: “Hi, I just stabbed somebody. Please pick me up. I want to die. I don’t want to be on this earth anymore. Please pick me up.” As he waited for police to arrive, Jamarion had told Glen that nobody loved him and that he wanted to die. According to Glen, Jamarion was extremely cavalier and the only time he raised his voice was when police arrived at the scene and walked over towards the playground. Jamarion had shouted over to them: “Hello. I’m right here. You’re going the wrong way!”1

A makeshift memorial appeared at the playground at Pinebrook Village. There a large sign which read “Connor is love” along with numerous drawings. There was also a quote from Connor which read: “Mom, I want to do what you do. But not make bouquets, deliver them. Flowers make people happy,” it read.2 Connor’s family would inform the community that before Connor had died, he had told his brother that he would always love him.3

Meanwhile, Jamarion appeared in juvenile court where he pleaded not guilty. It was announced that he would be charged as an adult in the murder. His defence lawyer, Charles Boekeloo, informed the court that he would be seeking a mental health evaluation to determine whether Jamarion was competent to stand trial. According to court documents that were filed, Jamarion had told police that he was “bad and always does stupid things,” adding that he believed that when police arrived on the scene, they would shoot him dead.4 Jamarion had also told police that he often got mocked at school for getting into trouble and said that people frequently called him “dumb” and “black.”

The shocking murder really instilled fear into the community, especially parents, and they would come together to provide support for Connor’s family. A memorial fund would be established to help them pay for the funeral and within 48 hours, it would swell to over $13,000. Meanwhile, a candlelight vigil was held in Pinebrook Village where it was announced that Connor’s funeral would be held on the Wednesday.5

Hundreds of people would flock into Cornerstone Church to pay their final respects to Connor. During the service, he was remembered as a big-hearted and fun-loving boy who was taken from earth far too soon. Pastor Brad Kalajainen told the mourners that Connor’s life had barely just begun when it was stolen from him in an unprovoked attack. His father, Jared, spoke fondly of his son: “I have never known anybody who loved as much as my 9-year-old son.” He recollected some of his interests including dancing, singing, superheroes and the Cub Scouts. In fact, the Scouts had lined the entrance to the church that morning and performed a flag ceremony inside.

Connor’s 7-year-old brother, Kameron, who had witnessed the attack, stood up before the crowd and emotionally stated: “It’s hard to go through this, but he’s in a better place.” His godmother, Laura Roth, said that on the afternoon of the stabbing, Connor’s selfless and kind attitude was displayed when Jamarion had come up to him and asked if he could join in: “Connor welcomed him wholeheartedly,” she said.6 His grandmother, Toni Nunemaker, took a minute to acknowledge that Connor had an amazing life, adding that there were thousands of children out there without a support system and without a stable home environment.

Shortly after the funeral, court documents would reveal that when Jamarion was arrested, it was noticed that he was covered in bruising and that he had lived in “deplorable” conditions. His mother and stepfather were both heavy drug users and child welfare officials had documents allegations against the couple.7 Just the year before, a DHS worker had reported physical abuse of Jamarion at the hands of his mother, Anita Lawhorn, and his stepfather, Bernard Harrod. Nevertheless, Jamarion and his three siblings remained in their care. In 1996, two other children had been surrendered by Anita after allegations of severe physical abuse including unexplained fractures and cigarette burns.8

In addition to the bruising, a gel plasma sample was taken from Jamarion and revealed the presence of the prescription drug, Mirtazepine, an antidepressant, and the sedative anti-nausea medication, Promethazine. Inside the home, police had found drug paraphernalia, which tested positive for cocaine. There were no sheets or bedding on any of the children’s beds and clothes were discarded throughout the home. In fact, utilities in the home had been turned off and there was barely any food. When Jamarion was questioned about the bruising, he blamed his stepfather. Anita and Bernard would be accused of beating Jamarion with a belt and an electrical cord and they would both plead no contest to the charges.9

Following the revelation, Jamarion’s three siblings would be removed from the home and State Sen. Judy Emmons would call a hearing to investigate why the children had not been removed from the home earlier.

An investigation would reveal that the Kent County Department of Human Services did not fully comply with policies and state law when they were interacting with Jamarion’s family back in 2013. CPS workers had substantiated physical abuse of Jamarion at the time and Anita had even told an investigator that she often beat him with a belt. Jamarion himself would tell CPS workers that he was being physically abused by his mother and stepfather. Nevertheless, police were not made aware of the abuse and CPS workers made arrangements for Jamarion to move in with his father in New York. Nevertheless, Jamarion was simply returned to the care of his mother and stepfather.10

Ultimately, two CPS workers would be suspected for “neglect of duty” in their handling of the case. Anita would respond to the abuse charges by claiming that it was Bernard who had abused Jamarion, not her.

In May, a judge would determine that Jamarion was competent to stand trial on the murder charge. As the defence and prosecution were preparing to go to trial, Anita pleaded guilty to welfare fraud and failure to inform. She had defrauded $14,546 from the welfare system and was ordered to pay back $50 a month. Shortly thereafter, Bernard admitted to abusing Jamarion. He stated: “I whooped him with a belt that left marks, sir.” He pleaded guilty to third-degree child abuse.11

On the 1st of September, Jamarion’s murder trial began. Prosecutors would state their theory that Jamarion had planned on stabbing somebody for around a year. They revealed he had hidden the knife in the sandbox at the playground and had taken his shirt off to make sure that he didn’t get blood on it. “He went looking for someone he didn’t know, and that someone turned out to be Connor Verkerke,” said Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Bramble. Defence attorney Charles Boekeloo, on the other hand, stated that his client was the victim of physical abuse at home. He stated: “He had no choice. This was his only way out.”12

Jamarion Lawhorn
Jamarian during his murder trial.

It would be revealed during trial that while in a juvenile detention centre, Jamarion had attempted to take his own life. He was given medication for depression. His stepfather would also testify about the abuse he had inflicted on Jamarion, stating: “I didn’t whoop him all the time, only if he did something bad… I left the marks on him.”13

A psychiatrist would be called to testify by the defence; Dr. Priya Roa said that the abuse Jamarion had suffered had harmed his mental health and put him in a “trance-like” state of fear and rage. However, her testimony would be rebuffed by a psychiatrist called by the prosecution. Dr. Susan Tremonti said that Jamarion knew exactly what he was doing and had the thought to hide the knife before unleashing his attack.14

After a three-day trial, the jury would find Jamarion Lawhorn guilty of the murder of Connor Verkerke. He would be sentenced as a juvenile and then resentenced as an adult when he turned 21. Speaking outside court, Connor’s father said: “Prison is the answer,” while his mother said: “This is for Connor.” Shortly after Jamarion was found guilty of murder, his mother would be found guilty of child abuse; she and Bernard were both sentenced to five years’ probation.

In November, it was time for Jamarion to be sentenced for the murder charge. He was sentenced to a detention center with the possibility of release when he turned 21-years-old. “I believe in redemption. I’m not willing to give that up on a 13-year-old boy at this point,” said Judge Paul Denenfeld. Jamarion was given the opportunity to speak and he apologised for his actions. He said: “I’m sorry for all the pain you’re going through. I wanted to die because I thought there was no way out.”15

When Worlds Collide - The Sad Case of Jamarion Lawhorn & Connor Verkerke
Jamarion & Toni.

Jamarion showed tremendous progress at the juvenile detention facility. Connor’s grandmother, Toni, would forgive Jamarion for what he had done and in 2019, she said she would be willing to take him on day trips out of the juvenile detention facility. By this point, Jamarion had shown such progress that he was allowed to leave the facility for eight hours a month. According to councillors, Jamarion had excelled while in the juvenile detention facility and even mentored others entering the facility.16

In March of 2021, just shy of his 19th birthday, Jamarion was released from the juvenile detention facility. In releasing him, the judge stated: “I’m confident you’re going to do great.” He said that Jamarion had done a “magnificent job” in his rehabilitation and had been respectful, productive and clearly recognized the harm he had caused.17The Grand Rapids Press, 1 March, 2021 – “Kent County’s Youngest Killer Impresses Judge”/18

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Footnotes:

  1. Long Island Examiner, 6 August, 2014 – “Boy 12 Stabs Boy 9”
  2. The Grand Rapids Press, 6 August, 2014 – “Connor is Love”
  3. Associated Press, 7 August, 2014 – “Boy Voiced Love After Playground Attack”
  4. Associated Press, 8 August, 2014 – “Boy Accused of Murder Wanted to go to Jail”
  5. The Grand Rapids Press, 8 August, 2014 – “Nearly $13k Raised”
  6. Associated Press, 13 August, 2013 – “Loved Ones Say Goodbye to Boy Killed at Playground”
  7. Associated Press, 27 August, 2014 – “12-Year-Old Murder Suspect Badly Bruised”
  8. The Grand Rapids Press, 29 August, 2014 – “Playground Stabbing Death Prompts Hearing into Actions of State Child Welfare Workers”
  9. The Grand Rapids Press, 12 October, 2014 – “Court Records”
  10. The Grand Rapids Press, 13 December, 2014 – “Playground Stabbing Death Leads to Statewide Policy Change”
  11. The Grand Rapids Press, 30 July, 2015 – “Stepfather of 12-Year-Old Accused Murderer Admits Abusing the Child”
  12. Associated Press, 1 September, 2015 – “Jurors Hear 911 Call”
  13. Associated Press, 2 September, 2015 – “Defence Portrays Teen as Deeply Troubled”
  14. Associated Press, 3 September, 2015 – “Jury Hears Closing Arguments in 13-Year-Old’s Murder Trial”
  15. Associated Press, 4 November, 2015 – “Teen Who Killed Boy at Playground Could be Free at 21”
  16. The Grand Rapids Press, 30 June, 2020 – “Kent County’s Youngest Killer Now and Extraordinary Young Man”

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George rockwell
George rockwell
1 year ago

A young white boy is murdered and the media talks about how the murderer is an extraordinary young man..

Ash
Ash
1 year ago

A young boy is murdered by another young boy, one who was abused, neglected, and suicidal, and all you see is race. Myopia isn’t just limited to people who aren’t you. Cheers.

Jennifer
Jennifer
1 year ago
Reply to  Ash

He’s right though. Lol can’t deny that.

Torrance
Torrance
11 months ago
Reply to  Jennifer

AGAIN!!!
What does Conners race have to do with him being murdered???

Care to answer???

Not to worry, because you can’t.

Tarps
Tarps
10 months ago
Reply to  Torrance

It has nothing to do with the murder. As a commentary about the media, it has more relevance – as there is a truly huge disparity between black on black, black on white and white on black murders in the news. There’s only one of those that really makes headlines, or causes riots.

Taylor
Taylor
2 months ago
Reply to  Tarps

Why did you say black on black , black on white and white on black.. but refused to say white on white. Close proximity crimes are what y’all like to deem “black on black” statistically white people kill more white people. This wasn’t a race crime but y’all race baiting.

Susanna
Susanna
2 months ago
Reply to  Jennifer

No not really

Ashlee
Ashlee
7 months ago
Reply to  Ash

It’s extraordinary that although he did what he did, he was remorseful and owned up to what he did. If his life was different, none of this would have happened. The fact that the grandmother was able to forgive him, a child at that, shows that she is truly a wonderful person. Although it is hard to forgive someone who has taken a loved one from you, that’s what God asks of us. harboring hatred, brings misery and torture. You can’t continue to live life like that. She showed strength, love and kindness. Reminding you that he was a child… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Ashlee
A. Brielle
A. Brielle
7 months ago
Reply to  Ash

“Suicidal” my foot. He planned the MURDER for over a year, and the 911 call, which you can LISTEN TO, had no notes of sadness, it was pure anger. He was even mad that the ambulance was attending to his MURDER victim before him. The way you people defend this violent MURDERER is greatly disrespectful to the memory of Connor and his family.

Andrew M
Andrew M
24 days ago
Reply to  A. Brielle

How about a little empathy? This is a kid who had been horrifically abused to the point of attempting suicide. I cannot even imagine a child that young pushed to the point of wanting death over life. I have seen no indication he picked Connor because of his skin color. Race shouldn't be an issue here because history has shown the world is filled with vile, violent Black people and just as vile and violent White people. But it becomes an issue when you allow it to cloud how you look at the situation. If the victim's grandmother has found… Read more »

Joe Young
Joe Young
1 year ago

Possibly the dumbest, most twisted interpretation of the story above. Racism is a hell of a drug.

Leftard
Leftard
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe Young

Racism ? Yet if it was the other way around the murderer would be called a racist n the grandma sure would be taking smiling pics with him . Probably Riots if he dint get life no parole . That’s the point he’s making but someone that’s racist . Your right race has nothing to do with anything in this car , Just hope u say the same when it’s the other way around instead of instantly claiming racism .

A. Brielle
A. Brielle
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe Young

Do you post this same comment when a white victimizes a black and the media plays up the “white supremacy” narrative, or do you save this venom only for when whites are victims?

Torrance
Torrance
11 months ago

What does Conners race have to do with him being murdered????

Ignorance is still ongoing.
#unreal

Dauud
Dauud
10 months ago
Reply to  Torrance

I think the reason for them mentioning the race is because constantly we see in the news that White Supremacy is the one of the largest threats to society, when in reality it’s quite rare. Coupled with the fact that despite making up about 13% of the population African-Americans are responsible for 52% of all violent crime. White killers are often, if not almost always labeled as racist when they kill a POC, even police get this treatment. Though the media actively hides TRULY racist motives behind black murderers, take the recent Waukesha Christmas Parade for example. Media has refused… Read more »

Abby
Abby
10 months ago
Reply to  Dauud

That’s an awful lot of words to justify the lack of logic behind being racist

Leftard
Leftard
7 months ago
Reply to  Abby

No that’s called a measured n detailed explanation of the earlier posts that u were outraged at with actual facts n figures . I know that actual discussions using your brain n real world data is above tour comprehension …..so yeah racism!!! Dill

KNOW NOW
KNOW NOW
6 months ago
Reply to  Dauud

This is where white supremacy and white idiocracy commune! Congratulations! You actually believe the statistics on violent crime with overall 83% of whites judges in the United States. Bless your lacking and barely breathing justice heart. Grab it now! Quickly! All of the phone calls made in the middle of the night and the money paid, that was made on the backs of blacks…..KEEP RUNNING FROM CRT! Your children will KNOW!!!!
Let’s calculate WHITE ON BLACK KILLINGS HISTORICALLY and TODAY…the untold truth. The Bible says all that darkness will come to light….CRT will SET YOU FREE!!!!

whatisthisworldcomingto
whatisthisworldcomingto
3 months ago
Reply to  KNOW NOW

my children also know how to think for themselves and critically…sooooo…not too worried. They can recognized bs and manipulation when they see it just fine.

Jam
Jam
4 months ago
Reply to  Dauud

White supremacy isn’t as rare as you make out. Please don’t play it down like that. That’s part of the problem. Look at what just happened recently at the shopping mall. White supremacy is thriving!

Truth
Truth
2 months ago
Reply to  Jam

Still in White Sheets under THIER Judge robes and Police Uniforms!!

Truth
Truth
2 months ago
Reply to  Dauud

YOU GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT! African-Americans are convicted of THIER Crimes. They get longer sentences by 85% than Whites for the same Crime!!! LOOK IT UP GET IT RIGHT!!

Leftard
Leftard
7 months ago
Reply to  Torrance

Nothing . The same as The occasional black killed by whites has nothing to do with race .

Unavailable
Unavailable
8 months ago

If it was a young black boy murdered would you even be commenting?

Mike
Mike
2 months ago

If he was black then you probably won’t even be opening ur stupid mouth dummy so have some respect weirdo#####

Haley
Haley
1 year ago

This is so sad for both of the boys. But at least Jamarion got a chance to redeem himself. I don’t think he was a bad kid, I think he was pushed beyond his limits and didn’t know another way out.

A. Brielle
A. Brielle
7 months ago
Reply to  Haley

Jamarion was abused, yes, but so are many other children, and they don’t MURDER a CHILD. This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision he made, either – according to his interrogation he claimed to have planned on killing someone for OVER A YEAR, and if you LISTEN to the 911 call he made right after he committed MURDER he was very clearly ANGRY, not SAD or DEPRESSED and he got even ANGRIER when the ambulance showed up to try to save his murder victim’s life rather than attend to him first. So yes, he was actually a “bad kid,”… Read more »

KNOW NOW
KNOW NOW
6 months ago
Reply to  A. Brielle

Hey Haley, THE “good person,” you called him a “bad kid.” I’m not sure how you were raised however I want to take a moment to educate you because it seems as though you are lacking in a simple life decency. Everyone’s experiences does not equate to the exact outcome! Please reread this for your edification! It really amazing how you had the opportunity to converse with him. You are so privileged. SAD or DEPRESSED. How do you know? You don’t! Please refrain from speaking your emphatic all cap assessments of a life long abused and neglected child. Privilege! WOW!… Read more »

Truth
Truth
2 months ago
Reply to  A. Brielle

He was 12 did you remember what you had planned other than your bday and your Christmas presents at 10 over a yr ago as he stated. And to show how nieve he was Glen (the neighbor) said the boy thought they sent the Ambulance for him and that Conners parents would have a separate Ambulance. He was not trying to get help he was trying to die!

ZGal
ZGal
1 year ago

A tragedy for both boys. It’s beautiful that he was given the opportunity to grow and get away from his abusive home life. It’s heartbreaking that Connor lost his life, but Jamarion will make sure he did not die in vain

Leslie
Leslie
1 year ago

I hope I could have reacted like Connor’s grandmother if a child with the same abusive childhood had murdered one of my precious grandchildren. I hope I would have stepped up to do all I could to help this other child the way she did. And, no, I do not identify as a progressive or Democrat.

Elle
Elle
1 year ago
Reply to  Leslie

Wtf do USA politics have to do with anything..?

Living2Live4Christ
Living2Live4Christ
11 months ago
Reply to  Leslie

It’s possible with Jesus Christ and help of the Holy Spirit. My life, actions, thoughts, and anger changed when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Truth
Truth
2 months ago

ME Too!

Elle
Elle
1 year ago

Jamarion’s parents should have been charged with the murder. What an absolute tragedy for both children.

Kar
Kar
11 months ago

It’s so heartbreaking that it took a murder for that boy to receive police help for REPORTED abuse. There are far too many abuse cases that are ignored and many lead up to unnecessary violence. I believe that if police or child protective services had interfered then Connor’s life would never have been taken.

Last edited 11 months ago by Kar
Margaret Williams
Margaret Williams
9 months ago
Reply to  Kar

@Kar I 100% agree with you! A lot of people failed Jamerion! Numerous people saw the bruises on this child and the people who were suppose to help him failed him! When DCF saw that Jamerion was being abused he should’ve been taken out of the home! As well as any other child living in those conditions! His own mother failed him 110%! She was witnessing the abuse and did absolutely nothing to help her son! Because of her not trying to help her child another innocent child was taken and given his angel wings way to soon! Connor would… Read more »

darleen muller
darleen muller
8 months ago

this is all about race can you imagine that if conner that white boy would of stabbed and killed that black boy it will be on every news station how come i only heard about this 1 time on the news. he took this boy life and killed him and now that black boy is walking free this isnt right what country do we lived in that you can kill someone and be able to walk free. i dont care if this black kid change his life he still killed somebody he should still rot in hell.

Bethany Smith
Bethany Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  darleen muller

What about all the white school shooters who walk free? What is your opinion on that? Is it Okay because they are white or do they deserve to rot in hell as well?

Leftard
Leftard
7 months ago
Reply to  Bethany Smith

All the school shooters that walk free? Yeah they just all walk free . Nice details typical tard making statements with no facts

A. Brielle
A. Brielle
7 months ago
Reply to  Bethany Smith

Name literally one. Any one. Meanwhile I can name one black school shooter who “walked free,” out on bond, just in the past four months – Timothy Simpkins. That’s how powerful the anti-white animus in this country has become and drooling r*tards like yourself help perpetuate it.

Angellove
Angellove
2 months ago
Reply to  Bethany Smith

What are the names of the white school shooters that walked free? I can’t find it anywhere… I will still be waiting for names!

J.P.
J.P.
7 months ago
Reply to  darleen muller

Rot in Hell ?? The Hell this kid will have to live for the rest of his life is the fact that he took a life for no good reason. That guilt will be with him until the day he dies and that is Hell. Having to deal with the feelings of guilt does not just go away. The shame alone will be his punishment. That is even worse than if he would have been locked up for the rest of his life. I pray for him that he has a good support system because he is going to need… Read more »

Ms Lady
Ms Lady
6 months ago
Reply to  darleen muller

Darren, you STUPID! how can you say how he took someones life and how unjustifiable it is then say he should rot in hell? Yes it was a terrible crime but he was a kid. Yes he should have done time and he did. Yes he should get another chance to get it right and he will! I am so glad you don’t have any stones to throw! And why does he have to be referred to as black boy? One child is white, one is black but you are ignorant and you are an adult. Shame!

Jim
Jim
8 months ago

Parenting was and is the problem here and in our society today. It is not about race it is about the parents who fail their children.

Sharone
Sharone
8 months ago

I feel sorry for both side, imagine the system knows you’re being abuse and choose to ignore what’s happening. What the little black boy did was out of desperation. The people at fault are the black boy’s parents and cps. It’s really sweet that the white boy’s mum forgive him.

A. Brielle
A. Brielle
7 months ago

Cash Gernon. Victoria Rose Smith. Ahren Joshua DeHart. Adah Lesslie. Noah Lesslie. Lucia Bremer. Victoria Rose Smith. Veronica Baker. Cannon Hinnant. Landen Hoffman. Connor Verkerke. The national news never gave any of you the coverage it gave to say Jazmine Barnes, but I promise I’ll never forget any of you.

The Dude
The Dude
1 month ago

I used to live with the brother of the Connors dad Jared. I used to be good friends with the Verkerke family. Grand rapids is known for violence, that’s why Jared’s brother moved to California, which isn’t so much better either. I remember when this happened and how cavalier my roommate was about the situation. Really blew my mind. I know that Connors grandma wrote a book about it too and was even on Oprah I believe

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