GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – A 13-year-old boy who fatally stabbed another boy at a playground in western Michigan was sentenced Wednesday to a detention center with the possibility that he could be free when he turns 21.

There was no dispute that Jamarion Lawhorn, who was 12 in 2014, killed Michael Connor Verkerke, 9, at a playground in Kentwood, near Grand Rapids. The defense argued that years of abuse at home had ruined the boy’s mental health and overwhelmed his decisions, but the jury convicted him of first-degree murder.

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The teen will go to a juvenile detention center in Evart. If he meets expectations, he could be released at 21, although prosecutors could seek a prison term at that age, too.

“I believe in redemption. I’m not willing to give that up on a 13-year-old boy at this point,” Kent County Judge Paul Denenfeld said.

“I’m sorry for all the pain you are going through,” Lawhorn said in court, apologizing to Verkerke’s family. “I wanted to die because I thought there was no way out.”

He was referring to his motive for killing the boy, known as Connor. He told police at the time that he was “fed up with life” in his abusive home and wanted to be locked up for life or given the death penalty. The two boys didn’t know each other before Lawhorn approached Verkerke at the playground, investigators said.

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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. After the stabbing, a neighbor told police that the boy said, “I want to die. I don’t want to be on this earth anymore.”

The teen’s mother attended the court hearing in shackles. She is awaiting a sentence for a child abuse conviction related to the case.

Dani and Jared Verkerke greatly miss their son but said the sentence was satisfactory.

“It’s up to him and how much effort he puts into rehabilitating himself and becoming a better person,” Jared Verkerke said.

WWJ is identifying Lawhorn, who turned 13 in March, because he is charged as an adult.

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