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Defense focuses on alleged history of abuse in Jamarion Lawhorn trial

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Wednesday marked day two of testimony, as a 13-year-old boy stands trial, accused of killing another boy on a playground.

Two witnesses took the stand for the prosecution Wednesday, the lead detective, and the medical examiner. They testified that Connor Verkerke was stabbed six times.

Then it was the defense's turn.

The first witness for the defense, pediatric abuse specialist doctor Debra Simms, who testified about Jamarion's psychical condition and reported history of abuse.

"He stated, my stepdad beat me with an extension cord, he stated it was to the back of his legs and this had been occurring since 2011," Simms said. "Jamarion told me he would get hit if he didn't clean up, clean the dishes or if he didn't fill the ice tray, he stated, he made the statement, he'd treat me like a slave."

Simms also testified that Jamarion had issues with depression, was on medications to deal with it and also had suicidal thoughts, but under cross-examinations, Simms was asked if she knew of a case of child abuse that led to murder.

"I've never had an abused child that murdered someone else in my experience in my practice," she said.

Also testifying Wednesday was a social worker at the juvenile detention center where Jamarion has been since the murder.

Sarah Benjamin talked about his state of mind when he first arrived there.

"I did not feel he was safe to be in the building, he was making comments about wanting to die and who was going to give him the shot," she said.

Benjamin told the court Jamarion was sent to a psychiatric hospital for three days and had tried to kill himself on numerous occasions.

"Sweatshirt on the neck and he put his head in the toilet to attempt suicide," she said.

Jamarion's mother and stepfather disputed the claims of abuse, though they did not deny using a belt on the boy.

A CPS worker also stated that Jamarion's mother said he was happy the day of the murder, he was playing with other children and wasn't upset about anything.

Another expert is expected to take the stand Thursday.

Lawhorn is the youngest person ever to stand trial for murder in Kent County.

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