Vernon man who kidnapped and murdered his ex-wife gets the death penalty

VERNON, Ala. (WCBI) – Wednesday, a jury voted unanimously to sentence Brandon Sykes to death in Lamar County District Court for the murder of his ex-wife in 2015.

The Lamar County Court clerk’s office told me they believe this is the first death sentence that they have on record.

“Brandon Sykes killed the mother of three in front of their 11 month-old child,” says District Attorney Andy Hamlin.

The expression on Sykes’s face didn’t really change as the jury sentenced him to death by a vote of 12-0 after deliberating for close to two hours. It closes a chapter on the seven-year saga that began with the disappearance of 29-year-old Keshia Turner, Sykes ex-wife who shared two children with him.

“The state always believed that the motive in the case was that he couldn’t control her anymore,” Hamlin says. “That she had moved on with her life and she had full custody of the children.”

While Turner’s body still hasn’t been recovered, the jury found Sykes guilty on three counts of capital murder on Tuesday.

“He trapped her in the house, he restrained her in the house, and we believe that ultimately, that’s where she was murdered,” the district attorney says.

The defense argued that this was a crime of passion and that Sykes was trying to protect his child in some way. But Hamlin says it was a calculated murder of the most brutal and heinous nature.

“He was having different individuals more or less run surveillance on her house and surveil the house to determine when she was there,” Hamlin says. “We believe that as part of the plan, he determined when she would be there alone.”

Hamlin says the convictions for kidnapping, robbery, and burglary during the murder are all aggravating factors that qualified Sykes for the death penalty under Alabama law.

“Murder during the commission of a robbery, burglary, and kidnapping, those are automatically taken as aggravators during the penalty portion of the trial,” Hamlin says. “The jury weighs whether the aggravators outweigh the mitigators and if they do, then the death penalty is appropriate.”

One of the mitigators the defense presented involved a claim that Sykes could be experiencing the lingering effects of a concussion that he suffered playing high school football in 1997. They even put one of his old coaches on the stand.

Turner’s mother also testified.

She told the jury how her grandchildren keep asking why they can’t put flowers on their mother’s grave.

“Justice is finally served for this family after seven long years,” Hamlin says. “I’m just so happy for this family that this day finally came and that they can finally put this behind them and gain some measure of closure.”

Judge Sam Junkin announced that the sentence will be carried out on April 5th.

Both families declined to comment after the hearing.

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