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West Side man convicted in murder of Marshall High School student

Annette Johnson wasn’t afraid to stand up to the myriad drug dealers who loitered around her West Side home.

She often called 911 to report the criminal activity and allowed the authorities to use her residence to set up surveillance.

Annette Johnson, mother of slain teen Antonio Johnson

But the pushers were just as irrepressible and fought back hard, Cook County prosecutors said.

They set Johnson’s house on fire and even tried to shut her up by trying to recruit her older son, hoping the strapping 6-foot tall young man would, in turn, enlist others in their illegal trade.

But Anthony Wardlow — who was trying to straighten out his life after a recent robbery conviction —wasn’t interested. When Wardlow refused the drug dealers’ offer, a purported gang member attempted to gun him down but killed his 15-year-old brother instead.

Johnson also was shot in the right arm in the shooting on Sept. 25, 2011, in the 700 block of North Springfield Avenue.

On Wednesday, Keith Talbert, 29, was convicted of shooting Johnson and murdering her son, Antonio Johnson, a football star and honor roll student at Marshall Metropolitan High School.

Keith Talbert

“Justice was served,” Annette Johnson, 40, said after the guilty verdicts were read in Judge James Linn’s courtroom.

“These knuckleheads wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and because of that, an innocent child’s — a promising child’s — life was taken.”

Antonio Johnson

Before shots had been fired that afternoon, Wardlow and Antonio saw Talbert in a car with his cousin, who oversaw the drug sales on the block, Assistant State’s Attorney Jim Murphy said.

Talbert’s cousin pointed to Wardlow, and Talbert nodded his head, Murphy said. The pair then drove away.

Minutes later, when the brothers were on the porch helping their mother with her grocery bags, Talbert returned in the light-colored Cadillac and opened fire.

Antonio was shot in the head. Johnson was shot as she raised her hands in defense.

Wardlow, now 25, was not injured.

A bullet whizzed inside the house and nearly missed Johnson’s daughter, Ashley Wardlow, as she removed nail polish from her toes.

During Talbert’s trial this week, both Johnson and Anthony Wardlow testified against Talbert, who lived just a few blocks from the family.

“My eyes didn’t deceive me then and they didn’t deceive me on the witness stand,” Johnson said about identifying Talbert as the gunman.

Johnson has since moved from her West Side home and is preparing to move out of state with her daughter.

Antonio was “all about business and his academics,” his former dean, Derrick Bass, told the Sun-Times following Talbert’s arrest in early 2012. “He was a very good student who hung out with a good crowd of kids and flew under the radar.”

Johnson, who wore her slain son’s maroon high school shirt in court Wednesday, said her youngest child loved the “Call of Duty” video game and putting up the Christmas tree. He had just started developing crushes on girls and was planning to attend college.

Talbert’s family and friends refused to comment after the jurors rendered their verdicts.

Several sheriff’s deputies were called outside Linn’s courtroom after Talbert’s relatives screamed and argued among themselves.

Talbert’s “mother kept shaking her head ‘no’ ” during the trial, Johnson said. “Your child is going where he deserves to be, where he can’t hurt anyone else’s child.”