Jamarion Lawhorn, Kent County’s youngest murderer on record, is apparently just as much a victim as he is a criminal. Although he is currently facing charges for the killing of 9-year-old Michael Verkerke, Jamarion’s actions have opened up an investigation into the past that has turned out to be a sad and sordid story.
As reported by the Kentwood Police Department, right after his arrest Jamarion was found to be covered with bruises, which he told authorities had occurred at the hands of his stepfather, Barnard Harrold. The subsequent investigation showed that Harrold allegedly whipped Jamarion with an extension cord and also punched him in the chest and stomach.
Anita Lawhorn, Jamarion’s mother, apparently beat him using a belt with a buckle on the end. According to court documents, she also has a long history of documented child abuse incidents which date back to as early as 1996.
According to court records, on one prior occasion in 1999, Anita Lawhorn had voluntarily given up two children, both daughters, into state custody while living in New York. The voluntary removal of her children occurred after the 1-year-old girl had suffered four unexplained broken bones, and the 3-year-old girl had what authorities thought were cigarette burns on her chest.
In 2004 she was investigated by Michigan CPS for child abuse a second time, and then once more in 2013. This time CPS substantiated the allegations and, according to court documents, Jamarion was the victim. But while both Anita and her husband, Barnard, were required to go through state funded parenting programs, neither were ever charged with child abuse.
This time around, however, the mother and stepfather are facing charges for their mistreatment of Jamarion. Although many would say that these charges come too late. At least for Jamarion, and certainly for Michael Verkerke.
Anita Lawhorn and her husband, Barnard Harrold, are both facing identical charges. The first is a single felony charge of 3rd degree child abuse, which states that they knowingly or intentionally caused physical harm to Jamarion. It is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years, or probation for up to five.
The second charge is for 4th degree child abuse, because authorities allege Anita Lawhorn struck the boy with a hand/belt and/or extension cord, and Barnard Harrold whipped Jamarion with an extension cord. It is a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail or up to five years on probation.
Shortly after Jamarion’s arrest, CPS removed the remaining three children from Anita and Barnard’s care. The children are currently wards of the state, but the court has allowed a period of up to a year in which the couple can work out their parenting issues. Should they fail to meet the court’s standard by the end of the allotted period, the court intends to terminate their parental rights.
“I’m fighting for my kids,” Anita said after her most recent court hearing earlier this month, “There’s nothing I can say, it’s not going to change nobody’s minds. I’m just fighting for my kids, ’cause I’m not that person everybody made me out to be.”