Trial begins for 13-year-old Michigan boy charged in fatal stabbing

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 31, 2015 4:43 PM

By Ryan Felton

DETROIT (Reuters) - The trial for a 13-year-old Michigan boy charged with fatally stabbing a 9-year-old boy on a playground last August began on Monday.

The boy, who was 12 at the time of the incident, was ruled competent to stand trial this summer in the death of Michael Verkerke at a mobile home park in the City of Kentwood, near Grand Rapids. Reuters is not identifying the boy by name because of his age.

The trial for the boy began on Monday at the Kent County Courthouse in Grand Rapids with a 14-member jury panel being seated. Testimony is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

The boy is being tried for murder in the juvenile court system, but has been designated as an adult. If convicted, that means he would be held in a juvenile facility until he turns 21, when he would be resentenced as an adult.

The Kent County Prosecutor's Office said the boy went to the playground of the Pinewood Village mobile park home on Aug. 4, 2014, and stabbed Verkerke several times after he fell off a slide. Chris Becker, Kent County chief assistant prosecutor, said prosecutors believe the attack was random as the two boys did not know each other.

The boy then "went to another house and said he stabbed somebody and wanted to die and told the person to call the police," Becker said.

The boy's mother and stepfather were charged with child abuse as a result of the investigation into the incident, the prosecutor's office said. The stepfather, Bernard Harrold, has since pleaded guilty; the boy's mother is awaiting trial, said Becker.

The trial in Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Denenfeld's courtroom is expected to last through the week.

(Reporting by Ryan Felton; Editing by Ben Klayman and Sandra Maler)