KENTWOOD — Two boys. Neither old enough to call himself a teenager.
One — just 9 — mortally wounded, running home where he collapses bleeding on the front porch.
The other — just a few years older at 12 — calmly walking from the playground to a nearby house where he asks to use the phone, calls police and tells them he just stabbed the other boy.
That was the chilling scene that played out Monday evening in the Grand Rapids suburb of Kentwood, according to police and neighbors.
Michael Conner Verkerke died at a hospital after he was stabbed repeatedly in the back on the playground at the Pinebrook Village mobile home park, police said.
His accused assailant, Jamarion Lawhorn, pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon in Kent County Family Court to an open murder charge. The Free Press is identifying the minor because he is being charged as an adult.
Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Laura Clifton said via e-mail Tuesday evening that Lawhorn is being held without bond. She said he will be tried in the same manner as an adult in the court’s Family Division and will have an adult record if convicted.
“This charging route was taken because if a juvenile is charged as a juvenile in juvenile court, the judge would have no option but to discharge at the age of 21,” she said.
Clifton said he was charged with open murder via a prosecutor’s designation, which will allow for a blended sentence if he’s convicted.
“For example, a juvenile can have a juvenile disposition, the term used for a juvenile sentence, but also have an adult sentence that is delayed — basically held in abeyance,” Clifton said.
Clifton said a juvenile cannot be automatically waived to adult court unless he or she is 14 years of age.
If Lawhorn is convicted, the case will be reviewed every three months by a family court judge, Clifton said. The judge would have the opportunity to impose an adult sentence at any time.
However, if the adult sentence isn’t imposed by the time he turns 21, the judge must review the case then to make the final determination either to discharge him from court supervision or impose an adult sentence.
Neighbors say Conner, as he was called, ran screaming to his home and collapsed bleeding on his porch. He died later at a hospital Monday evening.
The 12-year-old boy was taken to the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center.