The 9-year-old boy fatally stabbed in a Michigan playground on Monday spent his dying breaths telling his brother he loved him and re-assuring him that the shocking attack wasn’t his fault, a family member has revealed.
Michael ‘Connor’ Verkerke was playing with two of his brothers and another boy Jamarion Lawhorn, 12, who pulled out a knife and repeatedly stabbed Connor.
The boy’s great-uncle Jim Stearns told MLive that the horrific incident had left the family ‘absolutely numb’.
He said Connor had told his brother: ‘If anything happens to me, it’s not your fault. I’ll always love you,’ as the boy had rushed his dying brother back to their parent’s house in Kentwood.
‘Their top priority right now is the mental health of their three remaining children,’ Stearns said of the devastated Verkerke family.
A candlelight vigil was held on Wednesday night at Pinebrook Village Mobile Home Park, the site of Monday’s deadly attack. About 100 people gathered to celebrate Connor’s memory.
Children and adults both laughed and cried during the vigil, reports MLive before Stearns, who is the uncle of Connor’s mom, spoke to the crowd and everyone joined in to sing Jesus Loves Me.
Community members honored Connor’s memory with teddy bears, passed out by vigil organizers, placed next to a cross on the side of the playground.
Stearns said the incident has ‘terrorized’ the park for kids–in particular, two of Connor’s brothers who were with him when the attack occurred. ‘They’re afraid,’ he said.
The Verkerke family were also concerned about the Jamarion Lawhorn’s family.
‘Even though we’re dealing with a different type of pain, they’ll be dealing with a similar pain every day for the rest of their lives. That’s not to be taken lightly,’ said Stearns.
The community has some together to help Conner’s mom pay for his funeral. A Go Fund Me page set up yesterday has already raised more than $13,000 from 321 people.
The Grand Rapids Press reports that Jamarion sobbed and trembled as he appeared in court on Tuesday to face murder charges. Even the prosecutor, who has opted to try him in juvenile court as an adult, remarked that he looked ‘tiny’ and younger than his age.
His mother appeared in court with him and wiped away his tears and rubbed his back to comfort him.
Jamarion’s lawyer entered a ‘not guilty’ plea and asked that the boy undergo a psychological examination to determine if he is fit to stand trial.
The 12-year-old did, however, tell a judge that he understood the charges against him.
Under Michigan law, Jamarion could be given a ‘blended’ sentence if he is convicted, which would keep him in a juvenile detention facility until he is 21. After that, a judge would determine whether he should be released or sent to adult prison.
Police say that Jamarion’s attack on Conner was unprovoked and inexplicable. He didn’t know Conner before the attack and had joined the 9-year-old and two friends on the playground.
Suddenly, he pulled a knife out of the sand and stabbed Conner multiple times in the back, authorities say. Police aren’t saying where Jamarion got the weapon.
Conner ran to his home nearby and collapsed on the porch. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition and died hours later.
Authorities say Jamarion is the youngest child ever charged with murder in Kent County–and one of the youngest in the state of Michigan. An 11-year-old boy was convicted of killing his mother’s boyfriend in 1997 in Pontiac, Michigan.
Witness Glen Stacy told the Press he was doing yard work when Jamarion approached him and asked to borrow his cell phone. Mr Stacy said he assumed the child was calling him mother. Instead the 12-year-old called cops and admitted to a brutal crime.
Mr Stacy says the boy told police: ‘I want to die. I don’t want to be on this earth anymore. Please pick me up.’
He says Jamarion told him that he lashed out because he had ‘taken many pills’ and nobody loved him.
The 12-year-old was eerily calm and patiently waited for police, Mr Stacy told the Press.
He only became animated when police finally arrived–and didn’t immediately arrest him. Mr Stacy said the first emergency personnel went to the playground to help the victim. This upset the boy.
‘Hello. I’m right here. You’re going the wrong way,’ Jamarion shouted as officers arrived.
When police did finally come for him, he walked toward the cops with his hands out in front of him–showing he wanted to be handcuffed.