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Article updated: 8/10/2011 6:52 AM

Mom admits to ramming son's rival with her car

Timera Branch

Timera Branch

 
John Keyes III

John Keyes III

 
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A judge on Thursday will decide whether a Streamwood mom who tearfully admitted Tuesday that she used her car in November 2009 to hit a teenager who was bullying her son in Elgin is guilty of first-degree murder.

Timera Branch, 35, is charged in the death of 17-year-old John Keyes III, who was killed, prosecutors said, after being run down by a car on Nov. 8, 2009, outside an apartment building in the 200 block of Center Street.

A handcuffed Branch took the stand in her own defense Tuesday, saying she and her son Lacorbek Benion, who was in a separate car, went to the find Keyes and his mother so they could have an "adult conversation."

But when she saw Keyes walking near the building -- "I hit him," Branch testified, sobbing so hard that a security guard removed her handcuffs so she could cry into a tissue.

"I don't know why. I don't know why. I can't tell you why," an emotional Branch continued. "I don't know why I did it, and I wish I had a reason. I feel so bad."

Defense attorney Liam Dixon argued before Judge Allen Anderson that Branch was guilty only of second-degree murder. "She snapped. She just lost it," Dixon said. "She was going there to talk. She was not intending to do any damage."

Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Greg Sams said that argument and evidence presented at trial did not match the legal definition of second-degree murder.

"She had a mission. She accomplished that mission," he said.

Prosecutors have argued that Branch was going to show Benion -- a 17-year-old who also faces murder charges and will be tried separately -- how to stand up for himself.

Witnesses testified Monday that Keyes and Benion argued and fought the night before because Keyes was dancing with Benion's girlfriend. Benion ended up needing stitches under his right eye.

Testimony from Monday was that Branch ran Keyes down from behind with her 1991 Chrysler Imperial, and another car -- in which Benion and at least two others were riding -- pulled up and Benion got out and struck Keyes with a metal baseball bat, saying "Talk (trash) now" to Keyes.

Deonte Robinson, who was Benion's girlfriend's stepfather, testified Tuesday that he was recruited to ride with Benion and makes sure "things didn't get out of hand" when Benion went to confront and likely fight Keyes.

Robinson testified that he saw Branch's car strike someone and that Branch, standing outside her car, urged Benion and his friends in a separate car to "(Mess) him up! Y'all (mess) him up" as Keyes lay crumpled on the ground.

While Branch testified that she didn't know why she struck Keyes, Sams worked to establish a motive and intent under cross examination.

"I hit (Keyes) because I was angry, period," Branch said.

"And you had enough of your son being picked on?" Sams asked.

"Correct," Branch replied.

"Why did you need five men in the car behind you if you were going to make peace?" Sams questioned rhetorically.

If convicted, Branch faces 20 to 60 years in prison and must serve the entire sentence.

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