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updated: 8/11/2011 3:42 PM

Mom guilty of running down son's rival with car

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  • Timera D. Branch

      Timera D. Branch

  • John W. Keyes III

      John W. Keyes III

  • Dionne Harris, front in black and pink, arrives at the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles to hear a judge find the woman who killed her son, John W. Keyes III, guilty of first-degree murder.

       Dionne Harris, front in black and pink, arrives at the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles to hear a judge find the woman who killed her son, John W. Keyes III, guilty of first-degree murder.
    Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

  • Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon, right, discusses the Timera Branch guilty verdict Thursday. From left are Assistant State's Attorneys Reagan McGuire and Greg Sams, both of whom prosecuted the case. Branch could get up to 60 years in prison when she is sentenced Sept. 28.

       Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon, right, discusses the Timera Branch guilty verdict Thursday. From left are Assistant State's Attorneys Reagan McGuire and Greg Sams, both of whom prosecuted the case. Branch could get up to 60 years in prison when she is sentenced Sept. 28.
    Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

 
 

hhitzeman@dailyherald.com

A judge Thursday found a Streamwood woman guilty of first-degree murder for using her car to run down her teenage son's rival from behind in November 2009, smashing him into an Elgin apartment building.

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Timera Branch, 35, faces up to 60 years in prison when sentenced Sept. 28 for the killing of 17-year-old John W. Keyes III, of Elgin.

"Justice finally was served. If (Branch) spends 40, 50 years in the penitentiary, I'd be fine with that. That's what she deserves," said the victim's father, John Keyes Jr., of Indianpolis. "My son, Little John, he was always happy. He was a beacon in our family who was taken away. My son was going to make something of himself and that chance was taken away from him."

During the two-day trial before Kane County Judge Allen Anderson this week, prosecutors argued that Branch wanted to teach her son, Lacorbek Benion, to stand up for himself because he constantly was bullied.

Benion, 17, of Elgin, also faces first-degree murder charges. He is next due in court on Sept. 9, at which time a trial date could be set.

Several witnesses testified that they saw Branch drive her 1991 Chrysler Imperial into Keyes from behind as he walked outside an apartment building in the 200 block of Center Street the afternoon of Nov. 8, 2009.

As Keyes lay on the ground mortally wounded, Benion pulled up in another car with other men, and he got out and struck Keyes with a metal baseball bat while yelling to him, "Talk (trash) now," one witnesses testified.

Another witness said Branch told her son and others to "(Mess) him up, y'all (mess) him up" after she rammed Keyes.

"It is this type of vigilante justice that has no place in a civilized society," Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said as he expressed condolences to the Keyes family and thanked Elgin police and prosecutors for their hard work.

McMahon said he also met with Keyes' mother, Dionne Harris, after the verdict and she was calm and appreciative of the support from victims advocates and the job prosecutors did.

The two teens had fought the night before at a party because Keyes was dancing provocatively with Benion's girlfriend. Benion got the worst of it, needing stitches under his right eye.

After the attack, Branch drove off, her car leaking a trail of fluid with a 23-inch-long streak of blood on the front bumper. A police officer at a nearby gas station quickly spotted her.

Keyes died of massive internal injuries from being struck, the bumper and grill making linear abrasions on his back and his metal studded belt even leaving impressions on the bumper, according to testimony.

Greg Sams, the lead prosecutor on the case, said essential elements to the case were testimony from witnesses, many of them teens, and the words of Branch herself saying, "What would you have done?" shortly after she was detained by authorities.

Branch testified in her own defense, saying she was looking for Keyes and his mother so they could make peace. But when she spotted Keyes, she ended up running him over but could not explain why, Branch tearfully testified.

Defense attorney Liam Dixon argued that Branch was only guilty of second-degree murder, a crime punishable by probation on the low ene or up to 15 years in prison.

Anderson rejected that argument, but also did not find that the crime was eligible for an extended prison term that could have been life in prison.

Dixon said Branch, who didn't show any outward emotion when Anderson read his verdict, was disappointed in the verdict.

"This was a tragedy of epic proportions for everybody," said Dixon, who noted Branch's only previous criminal history consisted of traffic tickets, a point he plans to make at sentencing. "We respect the judge's decision. She feels miserable about the tragedy she caused."

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