On the witness stand Tuesday, Timera Branch could barely speak.
The 35-year-old mother was sobbing so forcefully that she had difficulty getting a word out. But eventually, she admitted to slamming her Chrysler Imperial into 17-year-old John Keyes, crushing the teen to death for fighting with her child.
The night before Keyes's death, he had gotten into an altercation with Lacorbek Benion, Branch's 16-year-old son, according to the Chicago Tribune. Witnesses said Keyes danced with Benion's girlfriend, and the two had words, which ended with Keyes punching Benion and the latter requiring stitches.
According to prosecutors, Branch took her son in the car the next day, drove to the Burnham Schoolhouse apartment building in Elgin, Illinois, and rammed "Little John" as soon as she saw him. One witness said she then urged her son to get out of the car and "go f*** him up," which he did — allegedly beating the already-dying Keyes with a baseball bat and saying "Talk s*** now," according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Branch told a different story in court. From the suburban Daily Herald:
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.”
Branch's attorney described the crime as one of "sudden and intense passion," in an apparent attempt to get the charges reduced to second-degree murder. That's the legal language used in the second-degree statute, the Tribune reports.
But prosecutors still insist that she committed the crime in an attempt to toughen up her son, and that it was deliberate and calculated.
The 16-year-old Benion also faces murder charges for the bat beating. He will stand trial soon. Meanwhile, Judge Allen M. Anderson said he will announce the verdict in Branch's case on Thursday.