GRAND RAPIDS, MI – In his nearly six years in a Muskegon County juvenile prison, Maxwell Hilton has been, obviously, a model resident.
“I’m not aware of a behavioral problem he’s had over the past five years there,” said his lawyer, Charles Boekeloo, at a final sentencing hearing for Hilton .
Hilton was enrolled in the Evart Youth Academy in November 2015 at the age of 15 after repeatedly stabbing her 13 year old sister in a knife attack. She recovered from these injuries.
He pleaded guilty to attempted murder and, as part of a “mixed” sentence program designed for serious minor offenses, was to receive a final sentence just before turning 21.
The latest conviction came this week before Judge Paul Denenfeld, who could have sent Hilton to adult prison if he had misbehaved at the juvenile facility.
Instead, Denenfeld ordered Hilton to be released on March 1 from custody and put on five years probation.
“Maxwell behaved in a first-rate manner, having engaged in a crime that clearly should never have happened. He appears to not only have thrived, but become an integral part of the Evart Youth Academy community, ”Denenfeld said during the conviction, which was released on YouTube due to COVID-19 security protocols.
Hilton did so well in school that he is expected to earn a bachelor’s degree at the end of March at the University of Phoenix.
His sister supported him throughout his journey and did so again during Wednesday’s sentencing. She and her brother had a “truth clarification” session a long time ago to look back on what happened in 2015.
“Since we had this everything has gone really well for us,” the teenager said. “We have a very good relationship.
“There are people who can take the shit path and he didn’t,” she said.
The decision to release Maxwell Hilton on March 1 came by mutual agreement between Kent County prosecutors, Boekeloo and others.
Hilton spoke briefly at Wednesday’s hearing.
“I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped me along the way. I mostly want to say thank you and sorry to my sister because i know i hurt her a lot and she has been with me through this and i know she never had to.
“I appreciate her very much for that and I am happy that she is my sister,” he said.
Hilton plans to live with her grandmother once released.
At the Evart Youth Academy, Hilton befriended two other inmates with high-profile cases – Jamarion Lawhorn and Jared seagraves. Lawhorn was 12 when he fatally stabbed Connor Verkerke, 9, on a Kentwood playground in August 2014. Seagraves was 14 when he shot and killed his sister’s boyfriend, Michael Haminger, in 2012 to Walker.
As a special exception to his probation, Denenfeld said he would allow Hilton to have contact with Lawhorn and Seagraves after his release. Lawhorn could be released from the juvenile facility as early as March and Seagraves was released in April 2019.
Denenfeld said Hilton had shown genuine remorse for what had happened and had fully accepted responsibility for his behavior.
“I would qualify his performance at Evart Academy to be extraordinary. It’s very impressive, ”he said.
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