KENTWOOD, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – A watchdog says Michigan child welfare workers missed opportunities to remove a 12-year-old boy from his Grand Rapids-area home due to abuse, long before he was accused of fatally stabbing another boy.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that the Office of Children’s Ombudsman released its findings this week. The watchdog says child welfare workers confirmed in 2013 that the 12-year-old was physically abused by his mother and stepfather. Yet he and three siblings remained in their care in Kentwood.

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Department of Human Services spokesman Bob Wheaton acknowledged Friday that a petition to remove the children should have been filed. He says the agency is “taking action to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Wheaton says discipline against employees is being considered.

The 12-year-old is charged with fatally stabbing 9-year-old Michael Verkerke at a playground in August. A day later, 12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn pleaded not guilty to an open murder charge in juvenile court.

WWJ is identifying Lawhorn, who turned 12 in March, because he is charged as an adult.

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Lawhorn is designated as an adult in the juvenile court system, which would allow the boy, if convicted, to be sentenced as a juvenile and then as an adult once he turns 21, according to Chris Becker, Kent County’s chief assistant prosecutor.

He told officers, “I want to die. I’m tired of life.”

The case is on hold while the boy undergoes a psychiatric evaluation.


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