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Child murder suspect wanted to die and "take somebody with him"


GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- The 12-year-old accused of stabbing and killing a 9-year-old boy on a Kentwood playground says he'd been planning the murder for over a year.

Court documents filed Friday also indicate Jamarion Lawhorn didn't know Connor Verkerke before using a steak knife to stab him in the back a still unknown number of times. The 26-page file contains the reports from the Kentwood police officers who investigated the Monday evening murder.

According to witnesses and statements made to police, Lawhorn wanted to kill himself and "take somebody with him." Lawhorn claimed he swallowed half a dozen pink pills he found in his family medicine cabinet, took an eight inch steak knife from the kitchen and walked a half mile to the small playground in the nearby Pinebrook Village neighborhood.

Plane reports landing gear problems, lands safely at GFIA


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- A midsize regional plane that left Gerald R. Ford International Airport for Detroit Thursday evening reported problems and had to turn around.

Airport spokeswoman Tara Hernandez told WZZM 13 that Delta flight 1312 reported landing gear issues around 6:36pm and headed back to the airport.

The airport fire department mobilized in response.

The plane was able to land safely at about 6:54pm, Hernandez said, and mechanics began inspecting it.

The airport tower initially said 40 people were on-board, but Hernandez says the plane was actually carrying 151 people, including crew members.

Details about the problems weren't immediately available.


Playground stabbing: How could a child kill a child?


GRAND RAPIDS (Detroit Free Press) -- Minutes before the stabbing, Kelsey Beukema stood by her car, looking at three boys walking to the playground.

There was nothing unusual about that. Children go to the small playground all day long in Pinebrook Village, a clean, well-kept mobile home park in Kentwood, on the outskirts of Grand Rapids. Most of the time, the kids play in the sand, go down the slide, hang out on the jungle gym or have squirt-gun fights. Normal kid stuff.

It was just after supper on Monday night, and she knew two of the boys: 9-year-old Michael Connor Verkerke and his younger brother, Cameron, 7.

The third boy was walking with a bike.

Beukema had never seen the third boy before, and she said that he had a strange, "angry" expression.

Clean up continues one month after Kent County tornado


KENTWOOD, Mich. (WZZM) -- Wednesday marks exactly one month since an EF-1 tornado touched down in southern Kent County.

The twister caused $4.5 million in damage along a six-mile path through Byron Center, Wyoming, Kentwood, and Grand Rapids.

Not all neighborhoods are cleaned up and tree cutting services remain busy.

The amount of damage did not meet the threshold for federal government assistance, but the recovery effort did receive a boost when Meijer donated $500,000 to the Red Cross. The money will support the Red Cross's disaster relief efforts.

In the aftermath of last month's tornado in Kentwood and Wyoming, the Red Cross provided the community with 161 meals, 1,269 snacks, 134 clean-up kits, 113 comfort kits, and 101 overnight stays at the shelter. Nearly 70 volunteers from Red Cross chapters across West Michigan assisted in the relief efforts.

Vigil held for 9-year-old boy killed at playground


KENTWOOD, Mich. (WZZM) -- Family, friends, and neighbors have gathered for a candlelight vigil remembering the 9-year-old boy stabbed to death at a playground Monday.

The vigil honoring Conner Verkerke is at the same playground where he was stabbed in the back repeatedly.

"This is Connor's park; let's take it back," said one of those who gathered at Pinebrook Village mobile home park Wednesday evening.

Back to school already? G.R. academy holds first day of classes


KENTWOOD, Mich. (WZZM) – Most grade school students have one more month before they head back to school, but for some, Wednesday was the first day of class.

Ridge Park Charter Academy is one of the only schools in West Michigan to start this early. Students attend an equal number of school days as their peers in other schools, but they get additional breaks throughout the school year. Staff say under the modified schedule, students are not as likely to need to revisit lessons after summer break.

"When kids have 11 weeks, 12 weeks off in the summer, they forget a lot of that stuff. These kids here only have six weeks off so it's almost like coming back after Christmas vacation," explained David King, the director of school quality at Ridge Park Charter Academy.

Inside the August Primary: The close calls and votes cast

Inside the August Primary: The close calls and votes cast

LANSING, Mich.-- Fewer voters cast their ballots Tuesday than when Governor Rick Snyder was elected.

That's according to Fred Woodhams, spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office.  Woodhams says 1.3 million Michiganders visited the polls during the primary, accounting for approximately 20.3 percent of active voters. Active voters are defined by the Secretary of State as people who have voted within the last six years. Woodhams says approximately 17.9 percent of registered Michigan voters cast a ballot Tuesday, but that number may be skewed because people who have moved out of the state may still be registered to vote in Michigan.