GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ/AP) – A psychiatric expert says a 12-year-old boy is incompetent to face trial in the fatal stabbing of a 9-year-old boy at a western Michigan playground.

The opinion from an expert hired by Jamarion Lawhorn’s defense attorney conflicts with a state expert’s finding. Lawhorn is charged with murder in the death of Michael Verkerke, who was killed in August at a playground in Kentwood, near Grand Rapids.

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A Kent County Circuit Court judge is set to hear attorneys’ arguments during a hearing on April 30. The judge will then decide if the case goes to trial.

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.

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.

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.

[9-Year-Old Stabbed At Playground Tells Brother ‘I’ll Always Love You’ In Dying Breath]

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.

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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.

Lawhorn’s mother and step-father are facing child abuse charges, and his siblings have been removed from their home. Authorities say the Department of Human Services was aware of abuse but didn’t remove Lawhorn from the home, long before he was accused of the stabbing.

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

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