Local psychologist weighs in on Kentwood playground stabbing

Posted at 6:31 PM, Aug 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-06 18:31:02-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A local psychologist is weighing in on the fatal stabbing that happened on a playground at a Kentwood mobile home park.

It's a tragedy that's left behind more questions than answers. On Monday, police said Jamarion Lawhorn, 12, stabbed Michael Connor Verkerke,9, repeatedly in the back. Verkerke died a short time later at a nearby hospital.

Dr. Paul Critellis, a psychologist, is one of many people in West Michigan and across the country trying to make sense of what went wrong.

"What we do know is, at least I think we know, is he was frustrated in some way," Critelli said.

Shortly after the incident, Lawhorn called 911 and turned himself in. On Tuesday, while in a Kent County courtroom, it was announced that Lawhorn would be tried as an adult.

"The rationale for him being charged as an adult is that it was the vicious or repeated stabbings. That doesn't scientifically make sense to me," Critelli said. "To me, I would look at what type of mentality does this child have?  I'm not saying don't charge him as an adult, I'm just saying, we have to look at a lot of other things. What is the mindset of this child that caused this unspeakable act, rather than just repeated stabbings."

Witnesses at the scene told FOX 17 Lawhorn said he didn't feel loved and that he no longer wanted to live. They also said Lawhorn admitted to taking pills earlier in the day.

"Was this child asking for help before? Did he feel or think or was driven to do something so horrific as this to get that cry for help across to someone? We don't know," Critelli said.

With little information about what, if any, warning signs were displayed by Lawhorn, Critelli said now's not the time for people to be silent.

"Unfortunately, I think anyone concerned-anyone involved with this child is going to become defensive...protective," Critelli said. "That's the last thing we need now. What we need is openness and what can we learn from this incredibly terrible tragic lesson if anything at all."