Public Safety

Long-delayed murder trial now set for October

Charges followed neighborhood melee in northeast Cedar Rapids

Kenyauta Vesey-Keith appears in Linn County District Court on July 8, 2016, when he was 16 and facing a first-degree murder charge in the March 19, 2016, shooting death of Brandon Johnson, 21, and an attempted murder charge in the shooting of Deaveon Gaudlin, 16, both of Cedar Rapids. Vesey-Keith’s trial has been delayed at least six times at his attorneys’ request, with trial now scheduled for Oct. 16. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Kenyauta Vesey-Keith appears in Linn County District Court on July 8, 2016, when he was 16 and facing a first-degree murder charge in the March 19, 2016, shooting death of Brandon Johnson, 21, and an attempted murder charge in the shooting of Deaveon Gaudlin, 16, both of Cedar Rapids. Vesey-Keith’s trial has been delayed at least six times at his attorneys’ request, with trial now scheduled for Oct. 16. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Kenyauta Vesey-Keith of Cedar Rapids was 16 at the time he was charged with fatally shooting 21-year-old Brandon Johnson and seriously injuring Deaveon Gaudlin, 16, all of Cedar Rapids, on March 19, 2016, during a neighborhood melee in northeast Cedar Rapids.

Vesey-Keith, now 18, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, willful injury causing serious injury and intimidation with a weapon.

He is accused of participating in a street fight between rival families and their friends in the 1100 block of Maplewood Drive NE, according to a criminal complaint.

Police said at least a dozen people — adults and juveniles — were fighting that day in the middle of the street. This brawl was a continuation of a dispute between the families that started in February 2014 with a fight in the Lindale Mall food court.

In the Maplewood Drive fight, Vesey-Keith is accused of getting a gun from a vehicle and firing multiple rounds.

What’s happened since

Vesey-Keith’s trial has been continued at least six times since he was charged, according to court records.

His defense attorneys have asked for all of the continuances, arguing they needed more time to take depositions from the 54 witnesses in the case and to hire an expert witness.

Vesey-Keith’s lawyers asked 6th Judicial District Judge Kevin McKeever in January if they could have access to certain police reports involving Johnson, who was killed.

The lawyers said those reports were relevant and could provide an explanation for Vesey-Keith’s state of mind — why he took action against the victim.

The defense said the additional reports contain complaints Vesey-Keith and his parents made regarding violence or harassment by the victims and others.

Vesey-Keith is claiming self-defense in the shootings.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden argued he didn’t think anything in the reports was new evidence or relevant to the case. He also opposed resetting the trial again, given the two years it’s been pending.

McKeever, after reviewing the reports, ruled the defense could see the reports. He reset the trial for Oct. 15.

Online records indicate Vesey-Keith is now in the Linn County Jail.

In a related case, Vesey-Keith’s mother, Saresa Keith, 39, also was charged and convicted in the Maplewood Drive fight.

She pleaded guilty in October 2017 to misdemeanor charges of child endangerment and assault causing bodily injury.

She admitted during the plea hearing she brought her son, Kenyauta Vesey-Keith, to the fight, along with her three daughters, ages 12, 17 and 20, and a 15-year-old family friend.

She also admitted to assaulting another person with a Taser she had brought with her.

Sixth Judicial Associate Judge Russell Keast in November sentenced her to a suspended jail sentence and two years probation.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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