Teen convicted of murder in playground death of Michigan boy

Created: 09/04/2015 2:21 PM

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A jury convicted a 13-year-old boy of first-degree murder Friday, turning aside defense claims that a childhood of abuse should shield him from criminal responsibility for the fatal stabbing of a younger boy at a western Michigan playground.

The verdict in Kent County court came after a three-day trial and four hours of deliberations. The Associated Press isn't naming the boy because of his age. He will be sentenced as a juvenile, then resentenced as an adult when he turns 21.

There was never a dispute that the boy, who was 12 at the time, killed 9-year-old Michael Connor Verkerke last summer at a playground in Kentwood, near Grand Rapids. The jury had to determine whether years of abuse at home had wrecked his mental health and overwhelmed his decisions.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Kevin Bramble said the killing was planned for months and the boy knew what he did was wrong because he called 911. During the call, which was played for the jury, the boy demands that police arrest him and give him the electric chair.

"He set out to kill someone and he did it," Bramble told jurors Thursday. "Take the emotion out of it."

Defense attorney Charles Boekeloo said his client was under the influence of stolen prescription drugs at the time of the stabbing. Psychologist Priya Roa said the boy was deeply troubled.

"He said he thought he would hurt himself but that would hurt too much so maybe he should poke another kid so he would be arrested by police," Roa testified. "He wanted to die, he wanted to end it all."

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