MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A woman convicted of murder 30 years ago when she was still a teenager will soon be eligible for parole after a judge decided she will not serve a life sentence.
Amy Black took part in the Dec. 7, 1990, killing of David VanBogelen, a Muskegon County husband and father who was beaten by Black and fatally stabbed by her boyfriend Jeff Abrahamson. Black was 16 at the time. Abrahamson was 19. Both were convicted of first-degree murder and received the mandatory sentence of life in prison. But after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that mandatory life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional, Black was granted a new sentencing hearing.
“There’s no forgiveness that I can ask for and there’s none that I can expect,” an emotional Black, now 47 and shackled hand and foot, told her victim’s family at that hearing Wednesday. “I want you to know that I accept full and complete responsibility for my actions and I don’t have any excuse for them because there is no excuse for the horrible things I did when I was a teenager. I’m sorry.”
As she spoke, members of VanBogelen’s family sitting in the gallery covered their ears and turned away.
Ultimately, while he acknowledged the pain of the VanBogelen family, Muskegon County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Hicks resentenced Black to between 35 and 60 years in prison, citing recent signs of rehabilitation including counseling and education.
“The law has changed — and I think a lot of us don’t like that, but the law has changed,” Hicks said. “The court thinks that a sentence of years is appropriate, years to years. And I recognize that we’re dealing about emotions here and lives, lives that have been altered, lives that have been lost, and there is no number that people are going to agree upon.”
A dollar figure for restitution will determined at a later date. With credit for 11,217 days served and time off for good behavior, she could be eligible for parole soon — though no one could say exactly how soon.
It was welcome news for Black but heartbreaking for VanBogelen’s family, who had asked the court to uphold the life sentence, calling Black “evil” and a threat to public safety.
“Not only did we lose Dave, we were forced to live every day with the reality of how he died. He was beaten, he was stabbed and he was dumped like garbage,” VanBogelen’s wife Barb VanBogelen said. “During the funeral, we had to have his body wear a hat to cover up the severe injuries to his head that Amy caused.”
The victim’s daughter Amanda VanBogelen, who was 7 when he was killed, told the court, crying, that she was so young when he died that she can’t remember the sound of his voice.
“I honestly don’t remember from that day we found out, but I will tell you the very first memory I have of this whole ordeal is sitting upstairs at our table in my house. There was a knock on the door and I will never forget the sound of that knock,” Amanda VanBogelen said. “The next thing I remember is hearing and feeling my mother scream, a scream I have never heard again and a scream I feel to the core of my entire being, and then her coming to tell us that our dad was never coming home again…”
“Amy did not just kill my dad, she killed … the spirit of my family,” she continued. “This affected so many people in so many ways, I can’t even begin to explain to you.”
She said murder broke up her family and has continued to haunt them as he hasn’t been there for big moments in their lives. The resentencing process, Amanda VanBogelen added, has been traumatizing, making the pain of the murder fresh again.
Even though Black will be eligible for parole, the parole board does not have to grant it. Barb VanBogelen said she and her children will focus their efforts on the parole process next as they try to keep Black behind bars.
“Dave can’t come back, so why should she get the chance to be out?” Barb VanBogelen told reporters after the hearing. “Just wrong. No juvenile should have the right to be able to kill somebody and then turn around and get back out and enjoy the rest of their life. Thirty-five years is not long enough. That was Dave’s age.”