Kent County’s youngest killer impresses judge, secures residential center release

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GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Just before his 19th birthday, Jamarion Lawhorn, Kent County’s youngest killer at 12, can leave a residential treatment center, a judge said on Monday March 1.

Lawhorn excelled at Evart Youth Academy, formerly Muskegon River Youth Home, where he was held after a jury found him guilty of first degree murder in the August 2014 knife death of Connor Verkerke in a field of Kentwood game.

Kent County Circuit Judge Paul Denenfeld said Lawhorn could be released on Monday but would remain under court supervision, possibly until he was 21. He said the next two months will be important as Lawhorn moves from a treatment center to a life in society.

“I have no doubts that you are going to do very well,” he said.

Lawhorn, who will be 19 in less than two weeks, will be living with Paula and William Cresswell, who have befriended him and see him as part of their family. He will also have the support of Frank Briones, who worked at the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center and admitted Lawhorn to the facility upon his arrest.

The judge said a rehabilitation team, including a therapist, probation officer and adult mentor, will work with Lawhorn, who has done a “magnificent job” in his recovery. Lawhorn has been respectful and productive and “clearly recognizes the harm he has caused by his act,” the judge said.

Lawhorn thanked those who helped change his life.

Before killing Connor, he had been mistreated and hoped to be locked up or executed for killing the boy, according to trial testimony. Connor, Dani and Jared Verkerke’s son, was playing with his brother when he was stabbed in the back. He didn’t know Lawhorn.

“I know what is expected of me. I know right from wrong, ”Lawhorn told the judge, during a remote hearing broadcast on YouTube due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kent County Assistant District Attorney Vicki Seidl, who has been handling the Lawhorn case from the start and is retiring this month, said Lawhorn had worked hard to change his life but asked that the court continues to have jurisdiction given the seriousness of the crime.

Defense attorney Charles Clapp said he would generally ask for his client to be relieved of the court’s jurisdiction, but said it would help keep Lawhorn on the right track.

Read more:

Kent County’s youngest killer now ‘extraordinary young man’, judge says

Kent County’s youngest killer could leave juvenile center at 19

Grandmother of 9-year-old slain boy forgives young killer and helps win day trips from youth center

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