SULLIVAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It was just before Christmas 1990 when Barb VanBogelen and her children’s lives were changed forever.
Husband and father David VanBogelen was killed.
Authorities say VanBogelen was lured to an apartment shared by then-16-year-old Amy Black and 19-year-old Jeff Abrahamson, where Abrahamson stabbed VanBogelen and Black took part in beating him. His body was dumped along a Muskegon County two-track.
Both suspects were convicted of first-degree murder and received a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
The VanBogelen family tried to move forward.
“You just put one foot in front of the other and you have to do it, you have to be strong enough to get through,” the victim’s wife Barb VanBogelen said.
That strength is being tested because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that mandatory life sentenced for juveniles are unconstitutional. The justices said the punishment failed to take into account the young offenders’ level of maturity.
Black joined a long list of Michigan’s youngest offenders whose terms were called into question.
“We shouldn’t have to be here,” Amanda VanBogelen, who was 7 when her father was murdered, said.
In a 1992 interview with News 8, Black told News 8 she didn’t think the life sentence was fair.
“I accept responsibility for the part that I did. I know I was wrong; I feel I should be punished for that part. But natural life? Ah, man. I don’t even claim that sentence,” Black told News 8 during a prison interview for a series of reports entitled Teens Doing Time.
Her victim’s family believes she is exactly where she belongs.
“She knew exactly what she was doing, and I think it’s totally wrong to play the little juvenile card now,” Barb VanBogelen said.
A Muskegon County judge ruled in April that Black is eligible for resentencing. A hearing is set for Aug. 11.
It’s not an automatic get-out-of-prison-free card. Judges have discretion on a new sentence and may uphold the life term.
Black’s lawyer Kimberly Stout told News 8 Black has changed.
“She’s incredibly remorseful,” Stout said. “I think she’s ready to go back in society. She would spend a year in a reentry program to make sure she’s on solid ground.”
Barb VanBogelen is not convinced. She hopes the judge keeps Black behind bars for the rest of her life.
“She’s getting a second chance,” VanBogelen said. “Dave didn’t get a second chance. We didn’t get a second chance to have him.”