12 ON YOUR SIDE: Murder leaves child custody in question

Published: Jan. 15, 2013 at 11:51 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A grieving grandmother reaches out to 12 On Your Side as she begins a bitter battle for custody of her grandson.

Her 20-year-old daughter, Keonna Watkins, was murdered on Rusk Avenue in September - after being chased by three car loads of people.

Lorenza 'Qwan' Porter was indicted, but Monday, Porter walked on the murder charge. The prosecutor said witnesses backed out and would not testify.

The grandmother is afraid she's about to get hit with another loss.

The baby's father is incarcerated on charges unrelated to the murder. Kelvonte Keel is at Riverside Regional Jail. He declined any kind of interview, but the grandmother said he is fighting for custody, too.

The grandmother believes the baby is better off with her than his birth father.

Kam'ron Keel will never touch his mom again. She took her last breath 123 days ago, leaving his grandmother, Charlene Watkins, devastated.

"He took a mother from her child, and a daughter from me," said Watkins.

Keonna Watkins was shot dead following a hood fight with 20 girls and adults throwing punches.

Charlene Watkins said she called police before the fight, about her daughter being chased by people in two cars, but no one was arrested.

"These people, she had not affiliated with until she met the baby's father. And so that's the link there. These are friends of his that did this to my daughter," said Watkins.

She holds Kelvonte Keel, her grandson's father, partly responsible. Keel got five months in jail for driving on a suspended license, failure to stop for police and obtaining identifying information to impede an investigation.

"I believe he was there. He witnessed it, and he did nothing to intervene," said Watkins.

She believes Kam belongs with her and said he's lost one parent and the other is unfit.

"He would be in an environment that would not be good for him. I do think he would be in danger," said Watkins.

An arrest record isn't enough to bar custody. Legal analyst Steve Benjamin said the court demands proof, deciding what's in the child's best interest.

"In most cases, the law would say, 'no, you don't take a child from the parent, you just don't.'" said Benjamin. "Speculation will not suffice, ambiguous circumstances will not suffice. There has to be clear proof the parent is unfit and cannot be counted on to properly raise that child."

Keel stopped the fight and was the first to reach the dying 20-year-old, said prosecutor Learned Barry.

Barry says Keel had nothing to do with the murder but he could have helped solve the case, instead he said, he saw nothing.

"I know that I'm the best person to raise Kam, because I love him. I love him with all my heart. I just know that that's all that I have left of my daughter," said Watkins, through tears.

Police identified Lorenza 'Qwan' Porter, Keel's best friend, as the gunman who fired the fatal bullet as Keonna drove away from the Rusk Avenue fight scene.

The prosecutor said Porter's sister was one of the girls fighting Keonna.

No weapon, no witnesses, and a family alibi - authorities couldn't place Porter at the scene, so the murder charge was withdrawn.

"You choose your friends over your son's mother," said Watkins. "I think it's his family putting him up to it and pushing him to get custody."

Porter still isn't free. He's behind bars on robbery, malicious wounding, and firearms charges, in another case.

The grandmother has set up a trust account for Kam'ron Keel at Wells Fargo Bank. A custody hearing is set for February.

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