INSTITUTE, W.Va. – A mother who lost her son is taking her grief and using it to get the word out about violence.  Deanna McKinney’s son Tymel was shot and killed back in April while sitting on his front porch on Charleston’s West Side eating pizza. She said her son was gone in a moment and it’s changed her life forever.

Jennifer Smith/MetroNews

Deanna McKinney spoke to Upward Bound students at West Virginia State University in Kanawha County on Wednesday.

“I should be at home trying to absorb the fact that my son is not here and I haven’t even had the time to do that,” explained McKinney.

“That’s because God has a bigger plan. I’m his child and I’m going to do what I have to do. If that’s standing up in front of thousands of people and trying to reach that one person, I’m willing to do that job.”

Wednesday, she was the guest speaker at the Teen Summit Against Drugs at West Virginia State University in Kanawha County.  On hand were more than 150 Upward Bound students who intently listened to her story of loss and the message she had for them.

“Follow your own hearts. Find yourself. Reach your own goals so that way you can be an asset to your community,” stressed McKinney.

Tymel was just 19-years-old when he was gunned down. Charleston Police believe a hit had been put out on him. McKinney had no criminal record and no known ties to any gang or gang activity.

On Tuesday, Naquil Sayles, 17, of Detroit, pleaded guilty to accessory and fleeing in connection to McKinney’s murder. Sayles faces up to a decade in prison when he’s sentenced in August.

Meanwhile, Mark Gaddy, 23, of Detroit and D.J. Carter, 18, of Charleston, are charged with McKinney’s murder.

During her time with the Upward Bound teens, McKinney stressed the importance of staying away from things like drugs and guns and focusing on their future. She said losing her son has been difficult but she knows he had a higher purpose.

“Sometimesm it takes one and it took my son. I’m honored that God chose him, chose me to walk this walk. It’s not easym but it is worth it,” she said.

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  • WV Outdoorsman

    Sorry for her loss.. But if he had a hit put out on him by Detroit gang members, he had ties to a gang here in WV.. That's how the game is played..

    What she is doing for those Upward Bound kids is great. But those aren't the kids you're likely to see as victims of gang related violence. These kids seem to already have a plan for their futures..

    • Jason412

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      I commend this lady for what she is doing, but I hope she is able to reach out to some kids who need to hear it more than kids already in Upward bound.

  • Jim - Morgantown

    God bless you in your sorrow Ms. McKinney and thanks for reaching out to help, you truly have a calling.