Families suffering on both ends of Michigan playground tragedy

Families suffering on both ends of Michigan playground tragedy

12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn is charged with the murder after police said he stabbed 9-year-old Michael Connor Verkerke on a playground in Kentwood, Mich. last Monday.

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by Jeff Seidel

WHAS11.com

Posted on August 11, 2014 at 7:56 AM

KENTWOOD, Mich. — Two families are suffering on different ends of the same tragedy.

One family is devastated and in profound pain, grieving the loss of 9-year-old Michael Connor Verkerke, who was stabbed on a playground in Kentwood last Monday and later died.

And the other family is dealing with its own pain, along with shame and remorse, after 12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn was charged with the murder. Lawhorn pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon in Kent County Family Court. The minor is being identified because he is being charged as an adult.

His mother, Anita Lawhorn, stood in her house, as tears came down her face and she apologized to the Verkerke family.



"I'm so sorry," Anita Lawhorn said, her face a mix of shame, embarrassment and profound sadness. "I'm so sorry that they have to go through what they are going through. I'm just so sorry. Words..."

She gasped.

"Words cannot express what I'm going through," she said. "And I can't imagine having to feel that type of loss so soon, so sudden."

The house was empty and quiet. She had been sitting alone in the darkness. Lawhorn collapsed to the floor, her body contorted. "I'm so sorry," she repeated. "I'm so sorry for them."

Days after this horrific tragedy, there has been a measure of remarkable understanding between the two families.

The Verkerke family has expressed compassion for Lawhorn's family, especially for Anita Lawhorn.

"That's so kind," Anita Lawhorn said, softly. "I wanted to go to the vigil, but I was afraid how they would react."

She sniffled, wiping tears.

"I'm so sorry," she said. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

Jamarion Lawhorn wanted his life to end or go to jail, according to statements contained in a delinquency petition filed Friday in Kent County Circuit Court.

The Verkerke family is consumed with agony and pain. At the vigil on Wednesday night, Jim Stearns spoke for the family.

"This is a painful time," said Stearns, Connor's maternal great uncle. "There is no doubt about it; it's painful, in many ways, for many different people."

He was talking about the Lawhorn family.

After the vigil, Sue Fiebig, Connor's maternal grandmother, spoke compassionately for Anita Lawhorn. Fiebig is highly involved in Boy Scouts — Connor was a Cub Scout — and there were several Scouts in attendance at the vigil, wearing their uniforms. Fiebig said she wanted to set an example for those Scouts.

The Boy Scout slogan is: "Do a Good Turn Daily."

The old stereotype of that slogan is when a Boy Scout helps an old lady across the street. But this goes way beyond that.

Fiebig's compassion for Anita Lawhorn was a special act of kindness, displaying worry and unique understanding for the mother of the accused killer.

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