Amy Lee Black was just sixteen when she and her boyfriend robbed and murdered a man in Michigan. According to court documents Amy Lee Black and her boyfriend Jeff Abrahamson were drinking with the victim at their apartment when an argument broke out. Amy Lee Black would strike the victim over the head with a whiskey bottle. The teen killers would lead the victim out of their home and into a vehicle. They brought the victim to a secluded area where Jeff then stabbed the man to death. Three days later the teenage couple would be arrested while they slept. Both Amy Lee Black and Jeff Abrahamson would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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Barb VanBogelen was thrilled to hear of Tuesday’s Michigan Supreme Court decision keeping in prison inmates serving no-parole life sentences in connection with murders committed at 17 and younger. Nearly 25 years ago, one of those inmates – Amy Lee Black, then 16 – participated in the robbery and murder of VanBogelen’s husband, 34-year-old David John VanBogelen. “I’m so excited,” Barb VanBogelen said late Tuesday afternoon, July 8, shortly after the high-court decision was announced. “This is what we wanted all along.” In a 4-3 decision, the high court ruled that juveniles sentenced before June 2012 to life without parole for murder won’t get new hearings that could have led some to their release. Amy-Black.jpgAmy Lee Black in December 2012MDOC One of those affected is Black, now a 40-year-old inmate at Huron Valley Complex Women’s Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti. She’s serving a sentence of life without chance of parole for first-degree premeditated murder. A jury convicted Black of first-degree murder as an aider and abettor in the Dec. 7, 1990, stabbing death of David VanBogelen of Sullivan Township, whom she and her boyfriend had met in a restaurant and decided to rob. She was sentenced in 1991 to life in prison without chance of parole, as Michigan law required. That made her Muskegon County’s only female “juvie lifer” and one of only 10 in Michigan. In addition to aiding 19-year-old Jeff Abrahamson, the confessed stabber, Black confessed to personally bashing VanBogelen in the head repeatedly with a square-sided whiskey bottle earlier in the evening, inflicting wounds a medical examiner said could also have proven fatal. When he died, VanBogelen left his wife, their 7-year-old daughter, Amanda, and 12-year-old son, David. The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012 ruled that laws, like Michigan’s, that mandated life-without-parole sentences for juvenile defendants are unconstitutional, although such sentences can still be imposed as long as judges are allowed to decide the issue. But the nation’s high court didn’t state whether the decision was retroactive to convicts who had already been sentenced under such laws. Black filed a motion for relief from her no-parole sentence based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Muskegon County 14th Circuit Judge Timothy G. Hicks in March 2013 declined to rule on her motion until the Michigan high court decided the issue of retroactivity. On Tuesday, the court did so, declaring the ruling was not retroactive. That appears to end Black’s hopes of being resentenced. That’s fine with Barb VanBogelen. “Just because you’re 16 doesn’t give you the right to commit a murder and then say, ‘Whoops, I’m too young,'” she said. “Juveniles need to realize if you’re going to do a crime, you need to pay the time. “She (Black) was not mentally incompetent. Nobody forced her, and to cry afterward – tough luck. We’ve cried many, many, many a tear over all this,” VanBogelen said. She believes the state supreme court made the right decision. “I’m glad they realized that you can’t go backwards,” she said. “You can make a law that goes forward, but you can’t go back and change the law backwards to accommodate a few people.
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