Kent County’s youngest killer free from court supervision

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County’s youngest convicted killer is now free from court supervision after a Thursday hearing.

In 2014, Jamarion Lawhorn was on a Kentwood playground and randomly chose Connor Verkerke as his victim. Lawhorn stabbed Connor with a kitchen knife he had buried in the sand, killing him.

Connor was 9. Lawhorn was 12.

connor verkerke
A file image of Connor Verkerke, who was stabbed and killed in August 2014 by Jamarion Lawhorn. Connor was 9. Jamarion was 12.

“I remember the day of August 4th like it was yesterday. I can recite that day in my head. It’s something I can never forget,” Lawhorn said at the Thursday hearing.

At the time, he believed responding police would then kill him, freeing him from the abuse that he suffered at the hands of his mom and stepdad.

Instead, Lawhorn was found guilty of first-degree murder and spent six years locked up in the Muskegon River Youth Home.

Over the years, he underwent intense counseling, developed close bonds with Juvenile Detention Officer Frank Briones and the Creswell family, which runs a prison ministry. In 2019, he was even granted permission from a judge to go on excursions with his victim’s grandmother, Toni Nunemaker.

In March 2021, Lawhorn was set free. Since then, he’s been staying with the Creswell family under court supervision.

“He’s impacted my life and my family’s life in incredible ways and become one of us,” Paula Creswell said. “I’ve seen progress. I’ve seen growth. I’ve seen a love in his heart for other people and a willingness to help anybody.”

During a Zoom hearing full of faces of people who have supported the now-19-year-old throughout his rehabilitation, he was released from court supervision — two years earlier than expected.

“I’m ready. In a good way. This is not the last you will hear of me. I’m gonna do great things,” Lawhorn promised the judge and everyone in attendance.

Lawhorn thanked his therapist and said he’s grateful for a second chance. He talked of doing motivational speaking and helping children.

“I’ve seen what I can do. There ain’t no giving up now. I’m definitely ready,” he said.

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