GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ/AP) – A psychologist says a 12-year-old boy is competent to face trial in the fatal stabbing of a 9-year-old boy at a playground in the Grand Rapids area.

Defense attorney Charles Boekeloo will now have two weeks to decide whether to seek another opinion.

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Jamarion Lawhorn is charged with fatally stabbing 9-year-old Michael Verkerke at a playground in Kentwood in August. Lawhorn replied, “Yes, sir,” when a Kent County judge asked him if he understood what was happening in court Tuesday.

Lawhorn is designated as an adult in the juvenile court system, meaning he would be sentenced as a juvenile if convicted of murder, then resentenced as an adult at age 21.

The boy’s siblings have been removed from their home over allegations of abuse by their mother. The Department of Human Services was aware of abuse but didn’t remove Lawhorn from the home, long before he was accused of fatally stabbing another boy.

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

Michael Connor Verkerke died after being stabbed at a playground near his home. (credit: Connor Verkerke Memorial/

Michael Connor Verkerke died after being stabbed at a playground near his home. (credit: Connor Verkerke Memorial/

Investigators say Verkerke was playing with some friends on Aug. 4 on a playground at the Pinewood Village Mobile Home Park in Kentwood, when Lawhorn allegedly pulled out a knife and repeatedly stabbed Verkerke in the back.

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Verkerke ran to his home and collapsed, bleeding on the porch, while Lawhorn went to a neighbor’s home nearby to call police and turn himself in. Verkerke died a short time later at a hospital.

Lawhorn has been described as behaving “very calmly” after the stabbing. Witnesses said the boy mentioned that he was upset because nobody loved him, and that he had taken multiple pills earlier in the day.

According to the delinquency petition filed in Kent County Circuit Court, Lawhorn told investigators he stabbed Verkerke because he wanted to go to jail. Lawhorn said he is “bad and always does stupid things,” and that he thought he’d be killed “for doing something like this,” according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Lawhorn said he didn’t know how many times he stabbed Verkerke, who he had never seen before that day. He initially said he wasn’t concerned for the victim, then said he was concerned because “it made him feel stupid,” an investigator wrote.

Lawhorn also told police he would get mocked at school for getting in trouble, and be called “dumb” and “black.”

Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Laura Clifton said she believes Lawhorn is the youngest defendant in Kent County charged with open murder.

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