Hey, y’all, and welcome to Southern Macabre. I’m Aeryn and I am so thankful that you’re joining me today. I hope y’all are having a fantastic week! Today we’re going to visit a small community in West Alabama that just completed their first murder trial in over seventeen years.
Before I tell you about Ms. Keisha Turner, I want to apologize for not posting an episode on Wednesday. Y’all know I’m not originally from Alabama so I don’t know all of the nicknames for places. That happened with a very spooky, sad haunted location I have been researching for two weeks. I finally know what I’m talking about so I will tell you about it on April 27th.
Now back to Keisha. She was from Vernon, Alabama, a town of just under 1,500 people in Lamar County on the Alabama-Mississippi line. Despite its small size, it offers a lot in the way of restaurants, boutiques, and the largest antique mall in the area. Vernon is very proud of its mom-and-pop businesses and does a lot to support them.
On Friday nights, everyone shows up for football or baseball games, depending on the season. Those mom-and-pop businesses sponsor the games, and you will see Bulldog banners in yellow and black around town. It’s like a Hallmark movie set.
The town goes all out for Christmas with a parade, the businesses decorate trees on the courthouse lawn, and everyone stands outside sipping apple cider or hot chocolate. Nearby towns do this, too, but there’s something special about the one in this little town that brings people together.
It’s also a very safe place to live. It’s not unusual to run into a store and the owner has stepped out for dinner or a customer has left their car running to grab groceries at the Shop ‘N Save. Before 2015, there hadn’t been a murder in Lamar County in twenty-some odd years.
Keisha Turner left her home just outside of Vernon on February 19, 2015 to run errands. She was a twenty-nine-year-old mother of three who was divorced from Brandon Sykes, 40 years old. She had recently posted on social media that she had gotten engaged. When her family didn’t hear from her, her mom went to her home and found a back window busted in. She called Vernon Police to check her home and they discovered blood inside and part of Keisha out in the yard. They didn’t elaborate.
Her 2001 Honda Civic was found burned about 35 miles southeast in New Hope Mississippi, another rural community, a few days later. People called the Vernon police to inform them that they had seen Brandon Sykes carrying a gas can in that area around the time the car was discovered.
Sykes was charged three months later for her murder, even though her body has never been found. Police found enough blood in her home and in the bed of Sykes’s truck to prove that she had been murdered and that he was involved. Unfortunately, 2020 happened before he could go to court so it was postponed until February 2022.
He was staying at Pickens County jail on interference with custody and aggravated stalking charges relating to Keisha’s disappearance. Those charges were dropped when he was charged with capital murder.
Sykes was found guilty of capital murder on February 22nd and sentenced to the death penalty on the 23rd. The jury deliberated “briefly” before convicting him of murder in connection with a burglary, kidnapping, and robbery.
I recently saw a News Break article condemning Lamar County, Alabama for sentencing a man to die without a body. How does that even happen? It’s simple to explain, but far more difficult to get a conviction. Evidence. Lamar County police found Keisha’s blood throughout her home and a piece of her flesh in her yard. There was enough of both to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Keisha was murdered and that Sykes did it.
It's hard enough to prove that someone committed murder, but it’s nearly impossible without a body. All I am able to get ahold of are newspaper articles, but it sounds like the local police department has a lot of evidence against Sykes.
Personally, I think it’s a good thing that a body isn’t required as long as there is enough evidence to prove that the missing person is deceased. I don’t necessarily mean that if no one has heard from him or her in a few weeks, I mean something tangible like blood.
I hope and pray that Sykes will tell her family where Keisha is. The trial’s over, he’s been found guilty, and he’s the only one with that information.
Now for a quick word from our sponsor.
I just wanted to tell y’all how much it means to me that so many of y’all are listening. I sincerely hope that you get something out of Southern Macabre and I hope that you will pray for the families I tell y’all about.
I will be back on Wednesday to tell y’all about a haunted mental health facility. I may spend a little time telling y’all about the history of mental health in the south. Thank y’all so much again for joining me and I hope y’all have a fantastic weekend!