After less than 2 hours of deliberations Friday afternoon, a Cobb County jury found Brunswick teenager De’Marquise “Marky” Elkins guilty on all counts in the murder of a toddler in his stroller while attempting to rob the baby’s mother on March 21, 2013.
NOTE: The following was compiled from multiple sources.
Marietta, Ga., 8/30/2013 The all-white, nine-man, three-woman jury deliberated about two hours before returning a verdict of guilty on all counts against Elkins, 18, in the death of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago and the shooting of his mother, Sherry West.
The counts against Elkins were as follows:
Count #1: Malice murder – Guilty
Count #2: Felony murder – Guilty
Count #3: Felony murder – Guilty
Count #4: Aggravated assault – Guilty
Count #5: Attempted armed robbery – Guilty
Count #6: Aggravated assault – Guilty
Count #7: Aggravated assault – Guilty
Count #8: Cruelty to children, 1st degree – Guilty
Count #9: Possession of a firearm while committing a felony – Guilty
Count #14: Criminal attempted armed robbery – Guilty
Count #15: Aggravated assault – Guilty
The jury also convicted De’Marquise Elkins of an attempted robbery and aggravated assault for shooting the Rev. Wilfredo Calix-Flores in the arm 10 days before Antonio’s death. Eyewitnesses testified the preacher was shot after he failed to meet Elkins’ demands for money and a cellphone.
During the trial, District Attorney Jackie Johnson accused Elkins of preying on the weak, “He decided to rob Calix-Flores because he believed Hispanics were less likely to put up a fight or report the crime,” she said, “and he attempted to rob West because a mother with a baby is also vulnerable.”
“I don’t know anyone more weak than a sleeping baby,” Johnson told the jurors.
Elkins will be sentenced later in Brunswick. He could get multiple life sentences plus several more years. Elkins was not eligible for the death penalty because he was only 17 at the time of the crime.
Elkins’ 36-year-old mother, Karimah Elkins, was found guilty by the same jury of tampering with evidence when she attempted to get rid of the pistol believed to have been used in the shooting. She could be sentenced to up to ten years for her part in the crime.
Prosecutors also dropped a charge against Karimah Elkins of possession of a firearm by a felon when they couldn’t find the paperwork on her guilty plea to a felony in October. They intend to charge her again.
Her attorney said he would have to confer with her about whether to appeal her evidence-tampering conviction. Her daughter Sabrina Elkins, 19, also faces evidence-tampering charges and will be tried later in Brunswick.
After the verdict, defense attorney Kevin Gough said no one won in this tragic case, but he said he would appeal what he called an unfair trial since much of the evidence he tried to present was blocked.
Prosecutor Jackie Johnson declined to comment.
The victim’s mother, Sherry West, did not attend the final day of the ten day trial.
During the defense’s closing argument earlier in the day, attorney Jonathan Lockwood, representing De’Marquise Elkins, said the prosecution’s case was a rush to judgment that was full of full of holes.
While the toddler’s mother identified Elkins as the shooter in a photo lineup, police say much of their evidence against the teenager came from his own family and the younger teen charged as his accomplice.
“In this case the government, law enforcement, made no effort to look beyond the person they arrested,” argued defense attorney Lockwood.
Lockwood said in closing arguments that Brunswick police got the wrong man based on the misidentification of the upset West and biased witnesses. Detectives refused to consider other suspects and made the evidence fit the case they wanted.
“They already had their guy. They were only going to look at that,” he said.
Lockwood argued that Elkins’ co-defendant Dominique Lang, 15, was the actual shooter and that he implicated Elkins to protect his cousin and best friend, Joe Lang, who was also supposedly involved.
Investigators have testified that Dominique Lang told police he and Elkins were trying to rob a woman pushing a baby in a stroller when Elkins pulled a gun and shot them both.
Both Langs testified against Elkins. Dominique Lang is also charged with murder in Antonio’s death and will be tried later.
Lockwood reminded jurors of how many witnesses had admitted to lying about various details, including both Langs.
District Attorney Jackie Johnson responded by showing jurors still images from various security video cameras that she said substantiate those witnesses.
“The video can’t conspire with those ‘making up stories’ ” she told the jury. “… All these ‘liars’ are telling you what happened in the case, but what they’re telling you matches up with the videotape.”
Wrix McIlvaine, Karimah Elkins’ attorney, offered his observation about the Elkins family members with their multiple brushes with the law.
“I think crime is borne out of poverty and lack of education and any number of factors, and the Elkins family has had a hard go of it,” he said. “… I don’t believe they’re a violent family. I don’t think there is a violent criminal family [type]. They are just products of their environment.”
Right, an “All American Family” huh?
Did you notice that there was no mention of race in the compilation? I removed nothing – the original articles did not mention anyone’s race except for the Hispanic Reverend, Calix-Flores, also shot by Elkins during a robbery.
In case you missed the original story or need to refresh your memory of this heinous crime, following are some notable details:
The 17-year-old teen SHOT the baby, right between the eyes, while his mother watched.
Little Antonio was asleep in the stroller, being pushed by his mother, Sherry West. She was walking on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brunswick, Georgia, a small city of 15,583 just 78 miles south of Savannah.
His first birthday was barely a month earlier.
She was returning from a trip to the post office, only blocks from her home, when two black teens, De’Marquis Ellis, 17, and Dominique Lang, 15, approached her demanding money.
“He asked me for money and I said I didn’t have it. When you have a baby, you spend all your money on babies. They’re expensive. And he kept asking and I just said ‘I don’t have it.’ And he said, ‘Do you want me to kill your baby?’ And I said, ‘No, don’t kill my baby!’”
She didn’t give them any money, so Elkins first shot Antonio’s mother, hitting her in the leg with his first shot, followed by a second one just nicking her left ear, and then (true to his word) he shot little Antonio in the head.
District Attorney Jackie Johnson said she would not seek the death penalty against either suspect because Georgia law doesn’t allow capital punishment for defendants charged with crimes committed before they were 18, but both teens still face first-degree-murder charges.
Elkins’ mom and aunt said that he wasn’t a “gangsta,” just a “misunderstood child,” even though he was also indicted on two counts in a second attempted robbery and shooting that happened 10 days earlier. He was later found guilty on both of those counts as well.
Elkins was reportedly identified by Sherry West from mug shots police showed her of truants who were not in school that day.
Working from a tip, a witness told the Brunswick Police Department that that they saw someone crouched in the back seat of a vehicle as it drove away from the shooting scene.
The Glynn County detective’s division followed up and eventually arrested the younger suspect; 15-year-old Dominique Lang. Lang’s statements led them to take 17-year-old De’Marquis Elkins into custody. Lang reportedly has admitted to being involved in the attempted robbery.
Lang’s aunt, Debra Olbey, is the person who was apparently seen by the witness picking up Elkins for a ride home and she told authorities:
“When he (Elkins) got in the car, he laid down in the backseat. He kept looking around, peeping up and I said, ‘Boy, what you doing? You skipping school?’ You know, he said ‘No ma’am.’” When she started asking more questions, Obley said Elkins cut the ride short. “When he got out of the car, he had something hid up in his pants. It was a gun.”
When De’Marquise was arrested, police found two bullets in his pocket of the same caliber as the gun used to kill Antonio Santiago. There was also surveillance footage that showed him wearing a chain necklace similar to one Antonio’s mother, Sherry West, said was worn by the shooter.
The 18-year-old defendant’s arrogance did him no favors. When he was arrested by Glynn County police, De’Marquise Elkins, 17 at the time of the shooting, told investigators “Y’all ain’t got (nothing) on me. Y’all ain’t got no gun. Y’all ain’t got no fingerprints. All y’all got is a (expletive) acquittal.”
After prosecutors showed the jury CCTV video of De’Marquise Elkins entering and leaving a neighbor’s apartment in the McIntyre Court housing project, two residents of the public housing complex were called to testify.
One resident, Danielle Williams, a lifelong friend of the Elkins family, told the jury that De’Marquise Elkins came to her apartment the morning of the murder and asked if he could hide his revolver in her apartment. He hid it under her loveseat.
That afternoon, Karimah Elkins and Sabrina Elkins (De’Marquise’s mother and sister) arrived to retrieve it.
“Did you direct them to the loveseat?” District Attorney Jackie Johnson asked Williams. “No, ma’am,” Williams answered. “They knew right where to go?” Johnson said. “Yes, ma’am,” Williams said.
Ronald Elkins, a cousin of De’Marquise and Sabrina, testified that the noise of them getting the gun from beneath the loveseat awoke him. “They were lifting up the furniture,” he said.
Ronald Elkins testified that he removed the bullets from the gun for the safety of his grandchild, who was in the apartment, before handing it back to Karimah Elkins.
A longtime friend of Karimah Elkins, Willie Merrell, testified that he gave her and Sabrina Elkins a ride to a favorite fishing spot, a saltwater pond off U.S. 17 just north of Brunswick, just two miles from the location of the shooting.
“It wasn’t a good day for fishing,” he said. After they arrived at the spot, he saw the women discussing something he couldn’t understand. “I didn’t see them do anything. I heard a splash,” he said.
During the trial, the attorney for Karimah Elkins, acknowledged his client threw a gun into nearby pond the morning after the shooting but said there’s no proof it was the murder weapon.
Other witnesses recounted police finding the gun with a metal detector and recovering it from waist-deep water at 1 a.m. some five days after the shooting. There were no bullets in the revolver when it was recovered; they’d been removed by Ronald Elkins when the gun was retrieved by De’Marquise’s mother.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation ballistics expert Brian Leppard testified Monday afternoon he had examined the .22-caliber revolver as well as the bullets recovered from the baby and the mother. He had test fired eight shots but found only two had unique characteristics that could be used for identification. The others lacked most characteristics because the hollow-point lead bullets were so soft, he said.
He noted that the two bullets recovered from the baby and the mother were different. One bullet had a brass wash and the other had a copper wash. While those bullets could have been made from different manufacturers, they can both be fired from the type of gun recovered in the saltwater pond in Brunswick.
Leppard also determined that ammunition that investigators found didn’t match. He also concluded that the one that killed Antonio Santiago had a different maker than bullets found at De’Marquise Elkins’ home, at Danielle Williams’ apartment and at the apartment of co-defendant Dominique Lang, who is being tried separately.
The .22-caliber long rifle bullets could have been fired from the .22-caliber revolver found in a pond by police, but Brian Leppard, of the GBI crime lab in Savannah, said it’s also possible they came from another .22-caliber weapon. There’s no way to know for certain.