Amy Lee Black Murders Man During Robbery

Amy Lee Black was sixteen years old from Michigan who would murder a man during a robbery

According to court documents Amy Lee Black and her boyfriend Jeff Abrahamson were drinking with the victim when they planned to rob him. Amy would strike the victim over the head with a whiskey bottle and the two would drag him out to a car

The victim was brought to a remote location where Jeff Abrahamson would stab him to death

Amy Lee Black and Jeff Abrahamson would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole

Amy Lee Black Photos

Amy Lee Black

Amy Lee Black FAQ

Where is Amy Lee Black now

Amy Lee Black is currently incarcerated at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility

When is Amy Lee Black release date

Amy Lee Black is serving life without parole

Amy Lee Black Sentencing

In the wee hours of Dec. 7, 1990, teenagers Amy Lee Black and Jeff Abrahamson met a visibly drunk, cash-flashing stranger in a Muskegon Heights restaurant.

It was a fateful meeting for all three.

By dawn of that Pearl Harbor Day, 34-year-old Dave VanBogelen, of Sullivan Township, lay dead on a remote rural two-track — his head bludgeoned, his body pierced by multiple stab wounds.

By the next Fourth of July, both teens had been sentenced to prison until the day they die.

Black was 16 years and six months old at the time of the crime, a relative newcomer to Muskegon after leaving her mother’s Kalamazoo home.

Today she’s 37, an unhappy resident of the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility near Ypsilanti.

She is one of only 10 female “juvenile lifers” in Michigan.

Black was not the one who stabbed VanBogelen to death. Her 19-year-old boyfriend confessed to that. But she did play a role in the events of that night.

Amy Lee Black has given two conflicting accounts of how deep that role was, starting with a detailed early confession that she recanted in testimony at her May 1991 trial. The jurors and sentencing judge believed her confession, not her second version, which she maintains to this day.

At a minimum: She does admit striking the victim’s head with a heavy whiskey bottle in the couple’s Muskegon Heights apartment, blows that the Muskegon County medical examiner testified could also have led to his death. She accompanied Abrahamson as he helped the disoriented, bleeding victim down stairs and into VanBogelen’s pickup truck. She rode along as Abrahamson drove to the secluded spot near Brooks and Ellis roads, where he repeatedly stabbed VanBogelen

Afterward, Black helped clean up the couple’s blood-spattered apartment. After discarding a gory sofa and other items, the two fled in the victim’s truck to her uncle’s home in Barry County, where police caught up to them three days later while they slept.

Amy Lee Black has always said she didn’t expect Abrahamson to kill VanBogelen.

Today, as in her trial, she blames the events of the night on Abrahamson and says she went along because she was afraid of him. She describes herself as a passive, unwilling participant, her chief fault being a failure to break away and let someone know what was happening. She attributes that to her youth, her dependence on her boyfriend and her failure to understand that she had “options.”

My role basically was that, as Jeff’s girlfriend, I was there with him,” she said in an Oct. 4 interview in Huron Valley’s visiting room. “And the crimes that he committed, I should have told somebody.”

That account contradicts the half-hour taped statement she gave police at her own request shortly after the two were arrested and brought to Muskegon. A transcript is in her court file.

In it, although she said Abrahamson surprised her by ultimately stabbing the victim — she supposedly thought they were just going to drop him off and steal his truck — she said that she plotted with her boyfriend in the restaurant to lure the drunken stranger to their nearby apartment to rob him; repeatedly bashed VanBogelen’s head with a square-bottomed bottle when he wouldn’t pass out from drinking; took cash from his jacket pocket; and “held his head down” in the truck as they drove into the country.

They got about $1,500 cash from VanBogelen, some of which she spent on new clothes, she told police.

In the confession, she attributed her actions to “money,” adding, “I always wanted to know if you could just kill somebody and, and, and the cops not know that it was you. I did. I always wondered that. I never, never thought I’d do it — do nothing like that, though. And, especially, I didn’t kill him, but I helped out my fair share.”

Testifying at her trial, though, she blamed Abrahamson for everything. She admitted hitting the victim with a bottle but said her boyfriend made her do it, after he first broke a bottle over VanBogelen’s head.

Jurors, after hearing both versions, took less than two hours to find her guilty of premeditated murder and armed robbery, as an aider and abettor.

Amy Lee Black maintains she falsely confessed because Abrahamson had repeatedly urged her to do so in the event that they were caught. His idea, she says, was to exaggerate her role and minimize his because she was a juvenile.

“He had explained to me that, because I was young, I wouldn’t (be charged as an adult), and they couldn’t hold me responsible,” she said in the Chronicle interview.

“When you’re young you believe things, stars and stripes and balloons and birds and puppy dogs. Now I think I can’t believe I was that stupid to believe those things.

Under Michigan law as it stood at the time, Amy Lee Black was tried as an adult, but it was then up to the trial judge to decide whether to sentence her as an adult or juvenile.

If the decision was adult, the sentence had to be life without chance of parole; if juvenile, she’d have to be freed when she turned 21 — less than four years after her July 3, 1991, sentencing. The judge had no middle course.

Muskegon County 14th Circuit Judge Ronald H. Pannucci made his decision after an hours-long sentence hearing. He heard testimony from psychologists, probation officers who had conducted a pre-sentence investigation, social-service workers and others.

A Spring Lake psychologist who tested, interviewed and evaluated Black testified that he believed her to have a manipulative, “sociopathic personality,” without empathy for others, and “the mental maturity of an adult.” He said Amy Lee Black had a poor prognosis for rehabilitation and needed decades in a highly structured environment.

State probation agents and Department of Social Service workers also recommended an adult sentence.

On the other side, two Community Mental Health therapists who had repeatedly counseled Amy Lee Black in jail called her a troubled teen who was remorseful and capable of reform, criticizing the “sociopath” label as inappropriate for one so young. The Muskegon County Jail chaplain also said Black was remorseful. All advocated a juvenile sentence.

At the end of the hearing Pannucci made his decision, based on testimony at the trial and the sentence hearing: an adult sentence was required.

And that meant life without parole.

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