Kent County’s youngest convicted killer set free

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A little more than six years after becoming Kent County’s youngest killer, Jamarion Lawhorn was set free on Monday.

Lawhorn, who was 12 when he stabbed 9-year-old Connor Verkerke on a playground in 2014, was moving on Monday into a family’s home in Jenison from a youth program in Evart.

He turns 19 in two weeks.

Jamarion chose Connor at random, hoping that responding police would kill him and end a miserable life of abuse at the hands of his mom and stepfather.

Instead, he has been held and treated at the Evart Youth Academy, the former Muskegon River Youth Home near Evart, where he just earned his GED.

“I believe he’s ready to go now,” his probation officer, Dan Cory, told the judge.

“I am extraordinarily proud of Jamarion’s progress, and I do feel like he is ready to step into adulthood and be a productive member of society,” his therapist, Melissa Haight-Emmorey, said.

She called him a low risk for violence.

“Jamarion has been incident free; he’s not engaged in any type of aggressive or assaultive behaviors,” she said.

Lawhorn had little opportunity to speak during Monday’s Zoom court hearing before Kent County Circuit Judge Paul Denenfeld. He has already publicly apologized.

“Thanks for everybody that has helped me out,” he told the judge. “I know what is expected of me. I respect any decision that is made today.”

On Monday after the hearing, Jamarion was moving into the home of William and Paula Creswell of Jenison. Paula Creswell runs a prison ministry program and started communicating with Lawhorn several years ago. She has filled the role as his mother.

He will also be allowed to spend time with Kent County Juvenile Detention Officer Frank Briones, who befriended Jamarion when he was first locked up. He plays the role of his father.

The judge also ordered he stay on probation, work with a counselor and a mentor and get a job.

The judge will eventually allow Jamarion to visit with his biological mother and his siblings, but not at the mother’s home.

“He’s coming out a legal adult, but in many ways he’s still a child,” his probation officer told the court. “He’s never had that childhood development, so we’re kind of taking a cautious approach.”

The judge will review the case in six months and could end probation then or keep him under supervision until he’s 21.

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