‘I am not in fear for my life,’ woman told a judge. Now, her boyfriend is charged in her death.

Kelaina Adkins of Brandon had four children. John James McQueen faces charges of first-degree murder, drug possession, and violation of probation over a previous domestic violence arrest.
Published May 22
Updated May 23

BRANDON — Last summer, Kelaina Adkins asked a judge for official protection from her boyfriend, John James McQueen.

Adkins wrote on that July day, though, that she was filing her petition not because she feared McQueen but because she wanted her children back. The kids, she wrote, had been removed from her custody "because of my continuing a relationship with Mr. McQueen."

"I am not in fear for my life or my children," she assured the judge. "Mr. McQueen has to be provoked to react."

On Tuesday, McQueen was charged with Adkins' murder, bringing a violent end to a volatile relationship and leaving four children — including a 3-month-old the couple had together — with no mother.

In a news conference, Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said authorities received a tip Tuesday that a 25-year-old woman had been hurt or killed. Deputies found the woman's body at an apartment she shared with McQueen on Delaney Circle in Brandon’s Charleston Landings apartments.

Tampa police caught up to McQueen, 26, at a gas station and arrested him about 1:30 p.m., jail records show. He was charged with first degree murder with a weapon, tampering with evidence, violating probation and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

The Sheriff’s Office released a heavily-redacted arrest report Wednesday that revealed few details about the murder. The agency declined to say more about the incident, and no longer releases the names of crime victims because of its interpretation of Marsy's Law, a constitutional amendment intended to protect victims' rights.

The Hillsborough Medical Examiner's Office confirmed the office had received Adkins’ body. Her mother Katrina Brady confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times that her daughter is the victim in the case.

"She was a really good mom," Brady said. "She loved her kids and she was really starting to have everything fall into place for her and them."

Brady declined to talk about her daughter's relationship with McQueen or about the pending case, saying sheriff's detectives told her she can’t.

But court records offer a glimpse into the couple's turbulent history.

McQueen's current probation status stems from a previous domestic violence arrest involving Adkins in April 2018. According to an arrest report, McQueen and Adkins began to argue as they were dropping children off at a Brandon day care center. McQueen struck Adkins in the face with his fist and strangled her with both hands for about 30 seconds, the report says.

McQueen was charged with domestic violence by strangulation, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months of probation and 50 hours of community service, records show.

While that case was pending, Adkins filed the petition July 27 seeking the injunction for domestic violence protection in which she cited the return of her children as her motive. Adkins wrote that she bore some responsibility for her clashes with McQueen.

"I have to accept the roles I played into this as well," she said.

She then described an altercation in a Wal-Mart.

"In this case, I just wanted my phone and my car keys back," Adkins wrote. "He refused. I hit him, he pushed me up against the shelves. ... Again, I am following the proper protocol to get my kids back with me."

Her petition was denied.

Details about the circumstances of the children's removal were not available Wednesday. Officials with the Department of Children and Families did not respond to requests for comment.

Court records show that another woman who had a relationship and a son with McQueen filed for a domestic violence injunction against him in May 2018, just weeks after he was arrested and charged with strangling Adkins. The woman wrote that McQueen had slapped, choked and hit her in front of their son.

McQueen was arrested on another battery charge in October. An arrest report says McQueen got into an argument with the male victim at a Brandon Steak 'n Shake and struck him in the face a number of times. Court records show prosecutors dropped the charge because the victim did not respond to the State Attorney's requests for help the prosecution.

Adkins, who went by the nickname Keke, was born in raised in Tampa, the fourth of seven children, Brady said. She graduated from East Bay High School in 2011 and earned a reputation as a talented hair stylist. She rarely missed family barbecues and other gatherings.

"She could light up any room she goes into," Brady said. "You can't help but laugh and be happy in her presence because she's not going to let you be sad."

She was working as a leasing agent for Charleston Landings at the time of her death, Brady said. A woman who answered the phone in the leasing office said the management had no comment.

In addition to the daughter Adkins and McQueen had together, Adkins had two other daughters, ages 6 and 5, and a 2-year-old son. For now, all the children are staying with her family, Brady said.

At Tuesday's news conference, Chronister urged people in abusive relationships to seek assistance from shelters such as the Spring of Tampa Bay.

"There is help for you," he said. "You do not have to live another second in some type of dysfunctional household where you have to feel like you're a victim of any type of violence."

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.