The teen accused of shooting a toddler between the eyes during a robbery attempt counted down from five before firing, his alleged accomplice testified today after pointing him out as the shooter.
Dominique Lang testified that he ran into De’Marquise Elkins on the morning of the March 21 slaying. A short while later as the two walked together, they saw Sherry West with a stroller.
Lang says Elkins walked to West and demanded her purse before pulling out a gun. When West refused to hand the purse over, he hit her in the face with it and threatened her baby.
‘The baby was in the stroller screaming,’ Lang said.
Elkins shot Sherry West in the leg with his .22 caliber handgun, he testified, and then shot the 13-month-old baby Antonio Santiago.
De’Marquise Elkins is charged with murder, child cruelty, attempted armed robbery and multiple counts of aggravated assault in connection to the March 21 shooting.
If convicted, Elkins will not face the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the killing, too young under Georgia law to be executed.
Prosecutors have also accused Elkins of shooting Wilfredo Calix Flores outside a local church ten days before the child was killed.
The killing this spring in the port of city of Brunswick, close to vacation spots like Jekyll Island, drew national attention, and the trial was moved to the Atlanta suburbs because of the extensive publicity the case received locally.
In opening statements, Johnson told jurors that both shootings started off as robberies.
‘When it didn’t happen immediately, as Mr Elkins thought it should, his reaction was to shoot,’ Johnson alleged.
‘The young man took the gun and aimed it at Antonio’s head and shot him right between the eyes,’ Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson told jurors.
The prosecutor said Elkins and Lang stopped the mother and child as they returned home from the post office.
Johnson said that Elkins pointed a small .22-caliber revolver at West and demanded her money. West did not immediately hand over her purse and the child was shot.
Bystanders and rescue workers were unable to revive the child, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
Lang is also charged as an adult with murder but will be tried separately. Authorities said Lang identified Elkins as the shooter.
Defense attorney Jonathan Lockwood suggested that Antonio’s parents were somehow involved in his death, though he did not provide a precise motive or further explain that theory.
He said that no one in the neighborhood saw or heard anyone fleeing the scene of the shooting.
He also questioned whether police focused their investigation too soon on the wrong suspects. He said that West tried to collect on a life insurance policy shortly after her son’s death.
‘The police were under a great deal of pressure to see that the matter was resolved as vacation season was not far away,’ Lockwood said.
Lockwood said the child’s parents both had gunshot residue on their hands. A report filed earlier by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that gunshot residue can wind up on shooting victims.
The child’s father, Louis Santiago, said during an initial court hearing that he touched the bullet wound on West’s leg before his hands were swabbed.
Prosecutors said information from Elkins’ mother and sister led investigators to a pond where they found a .22-caliber revolver.
Elkins’ mother, Karimah Elkins, is standing trial alongside her son on charges of evidence tampering and lying to police. Elkins’ sister was also charged with evidence tampering.
An attorney for Karimah Elkins, J. Wrix McIlvaine, said police had violated her rights and that she was not involved in the killing.
McIlvaine said, ‘None of these people had anything to do with the shooting of a child.’
Elkins was last a student in the system in October 2011 when he left Ombudsman, an outsourced alternative school program, Weidhaas said.
Both prosecutors and Elkins’ defense attorneys declined to comment before the trial, citing a gag order by the judge. The boy’s mother also declined to talk.
In 2008, West’s 18-year-old son was stabbed to death in an altercation in New Jersey. Prosecutors said the stabbing was self-defense and did not file charges.
Defense attorneys also pointed to lab tests by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that found traces of gunshot residue on swabs taken from the hands of West and the boy’s father, Louis Santiago.
Reports filed in court stated the GBI found a single microscopic particle of gunshot residue swabbed from the father’s hands, while more than five particles showed up in swabs from West’s hands.
The GBI report cautioned that gunshot victims can end up with residue on them. During a preliminary court hearing, Santiago said he touched the bullet wound on West’s leg before his hands were swabbed.
In a court filing on Wednesday, District Attorney Jackie Johnson argued that Elkins’ defense lawyers have made ‘false, inflammatory and misleading statements’ about the case.
While the toddler’s mother identified Elkins as the shooter in a photo lineup, police said much of their evidence against the teenager came from his own family and the younger teen charged as his accomplice.
Investigators have testified that 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.
Lang’s aunt, Debra Obey, told police her nephew and Elkins came to her for a ride the day of the slaying. She said Elkins ducked down in the back seat of her car, as if he was hiding.
Four days after the shooting, police said information from Elkins’ mother and sister helped lead investigators to a pond where they found a .22-caliber revolver.
Both women were charged with evidence tampering. Elkins’ mother, Karimah Elkins, also was charged with lying to police.
Prosecutors say Elkins’ mother and an aunt gave police conflicting alibis for his whereabouts at the time of the shooting. Karimah Elkins is scheduled to stand trial alongside her son.