Like a lot of 16-year-old boys, Kevon Watkins loved to play computer games.
He was also prone to what could have been seen as typical teenage sulks – and when his mum Latoya picked him up from Westside High School, Georgia, one afternoon, she could sense he was in one of his bad moods.
At their home in Macon, Kevon went straight to his bedroom and became engrossed in his gaming. Latoya was feeling under the weather so went to her room. Her 13-year-old son was also home, as well as Kevon’s older sister Alexus, 20.
When they were at school together, Kevon and Alexus got on well. After she graduated, he missed her and Kevon would later say his sister had ‘taught him everything he knew’.
But Alexus was now engaged to the father of her three-year-old son. They were on different paths and fought like many brothers and sisters.
It was February 2, 2018, and Kevon was frustrated by the speed of the internet connection and concluded it was because too many of his family were using the WiFi.
He changed the password so no one else could get on it. Of course, it wasn’t long before they noticed. Kevon’s little brother came to tell his mum what he’d done.
Exasperated, Latoya went and unplugged the WiFi router and brought it into her bedroom. Kevon stormed in to confront her.
Hearing the commotion, Alexus came to defend her mum from Kevon’s outburst.
Soon the row was out of control. The pair tussled on the bed then Kevon pulled his sister to the ground, and they started to wrestle.
Latoya tried to separate the pair but she couldn’t and before long, Kevon had Alexus in a chokehold - his arm around her neck.
Later Latoya would say her son’s eyes were fixed, and they couldn’t get him to let go.
Latoya called 911. It was just after 5 pm. Latoya didn’t know her youngest son would then also call 911 three minutes after she had.
‘My brother is trying to hit my mother,’ the boy said. When asked whether Kevon was on medication, he replied, ‘No. He’s just crazy… he put her in a chokehold, threatening to beat my mom… trying to get him off my sister.’
When a Georgia deputy arrived, 10 minutes after the 911 call, he found Kevon with his sister still in a chokehold and demanded he releases her. Kevon did as he was told, and Alexus dropped to the ground.
The young mum was motionless. Latoya started screaming hysterically and the officer started CPR to try and resuscitate her.
Alexus was rushed to hospital but was declared dead in the early hours of the following morning. She’d died from asphyxiation.
Kevon couldn’t explain why he hadn’t released his sister - but when he was told Alexus was dead, he broke down.
He was charged and booked into a youth detention centre. It was an unthinkable tragedy.
Kevon was 18 in August 2019, when he faced what he’d done. He had agreed with his lawyer he would waive his right to a jury trial and instead chose to have a bench trial – where a judge hears the testimony, reviews all the evidence, and decides Kevon’s fate over a two-day hearing.
Judge Verda M. Colvin was tasked with the difficult case.
Latoya testified. She said Kevon had stormed into her bedroom… ‘My daughter ran in, she grabbed him… he acted like he was going to hit me.’ She described how the siblings had started to fight.
‘I was trying to pull them apart.’
The deputy recalled arriving 7-10 minutes after the 911 calls, to find Kevon still holding Alexus around the neck.
A medical expert said the human brain can tolerate 3-6 minutes without oxygen before permanent damage begins. After 10 minutes, the person is most likely brain dead.
‘Even under the best estimation, by the time he got there… It had been at least 11 minutes that the defendant had to have been choking his sister,’ the judge said.
Kevon testified as well. ‘I never intended to kill her at all,’ he sobbed. When asked why he hadn’t let his sister go, he replied, ‘Because she was going to beat me.’
After two emotional days, the judge found Kevon guilty of felony murder and aggravated assault rather than manslaughter.
As while he didn’t intend to kill his sister, he had intentionally placed her in a chokehold which was an assault that resulted in her death. The family wept when Kevon was sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole.
Judge Colvin said the decision was ‘the most difficult thing I’ve had to do’.
She had reviewed her notes and thought hard about the verdict. ‘In this household, the ability to ignore and follow corrective discipline was empowered.’
Judge Colvin spoke to Kevon and said how sorry she was he wasn’t given the right tools to deal with his anger and the chaos in his home.
‘I apologise to you that no intervention was made before it got to this point,’ she said. But added Kevon had to be punished. ‘I don’t see this as an accident,’ she said.
Kevon, now 18, was crying as he was placed in handcuffs.
‘I’m sorry,’ he sobbed hysterically.
‘I think everyone understands,’ Judge Colvin said to the broken teenager. ‘Including this court.’