ON YOUR SIDE: Grandmother wins custody of child

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A child custody battle after a young mother's murder is settled in a story we've been following for months.

Charlene Watkins feared she would also lose her grandson after her daughter was shot dead. The man a grand jury indicted walked on the murder charge when witnesses refused to testify.

The grieving grandmother, who turned to 12 On Your Side to tell her story, was granted custody, not the baby's father.

In fact, Kelvonte Keel, the child's father, was thrown in jail for 10 days after he tested positive for cocaine.

According to Charlene Watkins and her attorney, Kelvonte Keel showed up to the child custody case with cocaine in his system. The drug test results may have made up the judge's mind to grant custody to the grandmother whose daughter was murdered.

Charlene Watkins shed tears of joy. The other grandmother, Brigetta Keel, walked away without saying a word.

The child the two families battled over is Kam'Ron. I visited with the family back in January. Then, the grieving grandmother had temporary custody and reasons why she believed Kam'Ron was better off with her and not his father.

"You choose your friends over your son's mother," said Watkins about Kelvonte Keel. "I believe he was there. He witnessed it and he did nothing to intervene."

Prosecutor Learned Barry says Keel had nothing to do with the murder but says, instead of helping them with the case against his best friend, Lorenza Qwan Porter, Keel said he saw nothing. Barry says Keel was the first to reach Keonna as she was dying in her car.

Charlene says her daughter was fatally shot following a hood fight, hours after Charlene called 911, last September.

Our legal analyst Steve Benjamin says courts won't take a child from his parent without proof the parent is unfit. Keel's court-ordered, on-the-spot drug test showed cocaine use and may have tipped the scale in Charlene's favor, giving her physical custody of Kam'Ron.

Charlene considers the legal victory a gift from her daughter. She won custody of her grandson on what would have been her daughter's 21st birthday, April 25.

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