A Chicago woman charged with murder broke down on the witness stand Tuesday as she tried to explain why she ran down her son’s rival with her car, crushing him to death against an Elgin apartment building. Continue reading after the jump.


Timera Branch’s emotional testimony capped her two-day bench trial in Kane County court for the Nov. 8, 2009, murder of Elgin resident John Keyes, 17. Judge Allen Anderson said he will announce his verdict Thursday.

Authorities alleged that Branch, 35, hunted down and killed Keyes down the day after he punched Branch’s son at a party. Keyes and Branch’s son, Lacorbek Benion, then 16, had fought after Keyes danced with Benion’s girlfriend, according to witnesses.

Branch testified that she had driven to the Elgin apartment building on Center Street in an attempt to resolve bad blood between Keyes and Benion.

But when she drove into the parking lot where Keyes was standing, “I saw the young man, Keyes, and I hit him,” said Branch, who then buried her head in her hands and began sobbing.

“I don’t know why. I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why,” she continued a few moments later. “I wish I could give them some reason. I wish I could give them some closure. I don’t know why.”

In closing arguments, her attorney Liam Dixon said Branch simply snapped, and acted under a “sudden and intense passion,” legal language used in the description of second-degree murder.

“She just lost it in those couple of seconds,” Dixon told the judge.

But Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Greg Sams said nothing in Branch’s actions would allow for anything other than conviction on first-degree murder, even Branch’s assertion that her son had faced ongoing bullying.

“That doesn’t give her the right to get in her Chrysler Imperial and run down a kid,” Sams said.

The prosecutor noted that Branch gave evasive answers to police about 90 minutes after the incident. A tape of the interview was played in court earlier Tuesday.

“There’s an unbelievable lack of remorse in that woman after she just crushed John Keyes to death,” Sams said of the interview.

Benion is alleged to have exited a second vehicle in the moments after the incident and struck Keyes with a baseball bat. He is awaiting trial on murder charges.

Branch’s car was badly damaged when it ran into the building, and she was detained by police just a block from the crime scene. Sams said that the car crushed Keyes with such force that impressions of Keyes’ studded belt were left on the bumper of the car.