KENTWOOD, Mich. — A vigil was held on Wednesday evening outside the playground where 9-year-old Connor Verkerke was murdered on Monday evening.
12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn is charged as an adult for his murder, and investigators believe it was a random attack.
Connor’s great uncle, Jim Stearns, said that Connor was a responsible child who always put family first.
“One of his last words, and I said it before, wa0, to his brother. who helped him get home a hundred feet that way from the playground: ‘If anything happens to me, it’s not your fault. I’ll always love you.’ That’s the Connor that I know,” said Stearns.
Stearns said that the family is trying to support Connor’s siblings as they deal with the sudden loss.
“Their top priority is the mental health of their three remaining children,” said Stearns. “Just a few days ago, Connor was at Grandma’s house playing around the fire, and I shot some pictures. I didn’t know it was the last pictures I’d ever see of Connor.”
Fellow Boy Scouts from Caledonia also attended the vigil to pay tribute to one of their own.
“Cub Scouts is not just a pack, but we are a family,” said Mike Banning. “We are here to help support one another in our local communities and that is what we are here to do.”
Students from Connor’s school were also there to honor a friend they expected to grow up with. “First thing I think is cheerful, happy. You know, its just kind of hard to see him go,” said Joshua Millet.
Stearns said that Connor’s family, too, feels heartbroken for the family of Jamarion Lawhorn, the 12-year-old who is charged for the killing. “Even though we are dealing with a different type of pain, they will be dealing with a similar pain everyday,” he said.
The family said that they are overwhelmed by community support and that Connor’s best friend, James, acted as a hero, trying to get Connor to safety.