De’Marquise Elkins is accused of shooting Antonio Santiago execution style on March 21 while Antonio was in his stroller returning home from the post office in Brunswick. Because Elkins was not 18 years old at the time of the shooting, he cannot be sentenced to death, but faces life in prison if convicted.
The trial was moved to Cobb County following concerns about media coverage and racial tensions in Brunswick.
Sherry West was awakened at about 5 a.m. on March 21 by the sound of Antonio’s crying. She changed his diaper, fed him apple cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast, dressed him and laid him back down for a morning nap.
Later that morning, West put her baby in a stroller and walked to the post office, just a few blocks away from her apartment in a quiet, tree-lined historic district, to purchase a stamp and mail a letter.
It was when she started to walk home that things took a turn for the worse.
“I was five minutes from my home and two boys were walking down the street,” West said.
She moved to the right ensuring the pair had enough room to walk around her.
“The big one approached me and demanded me to give him money,” West said, referring to Elkins. “I told him I didn’t have any. He repeated it. He said, ‘Give me your money.’”
West paused, often sobbing and looking down as her blonde hair shielded her face.
“I told him I have a baby and I have expenses and I didn’t have (money),” West said. “He asked me if I wanted him to shoot my baby and I said, ‘Please don’t shoot my baby.’”
One shot was fired into the ground and a second shot grazed West’s ear. A third shot struck West’s leg.
“He walked over and shot my baby,” West said, sobbing and wiping tears from her eyes. “I tried to stop him. I put my arms over my baby, but he still shot him.”
Defense takes jab at mother
West suffers from bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, paranoia and post traumatic stress disorder. She takes two medications to treat those illnesses.
Kevin Gough, lead defense attorney for Elkins, said the two medications she has been prescribed can cause side effects like irritability, suicidal thoughts, tendency to become more depressed and memory loss.
She also has a permanent scar on her left cornea that affects her vision.
But West says she is positive about her identification of Elkins.
“I remember Mr. Elkins pointing a gun in my face,” West said.
Gough questioned why West took the route she did to the post office. He said there were several mail boxes nearby and walking the longer route required her to pass by a block of boarded up houses that he implied were unsafe.
The prosecution disagreed.
“It’s this witness’s fault because she walked on the street?” Andrew Ekonomoe, a prosecutor, asked Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley, objecting to Gough’s line of questioning. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard and has nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of this case.”
It was the evening of Antonio’s death when West made a call to her daughter, Ashley Glassey in New Jersey, that Gough said was about insurance money. The following day Glassey told television reporters her mother asked how quickly the $5,000 life insurance policy she had on Antonio could be paid to her.
West did not have custody of Glassey. Her other son was gunned down in New Jersey at the age of 18.
Living off a $710 monthly disability check from the Social Security Administration, West’s rent was $425 plus utility bills. It had been 20 years since West had her last child, and she didn’t remember how difficult it was.
Still, she enjoyed being a parent.
“In fact, we were planning on having another child when he was 15 months old,” West said.
Relationship with baby’s father was ‘troubled’
Prosecutors accused defense attorneys of putting West on trial after asking about her relationship with the baby’s father, Louis Santiago.
West told police he had money troubles, was obsessive and had stalking tendencies. Santiago is in jail in Glynn County on aggravated stalking charges. It’s not clear if that charge is related to West.
Two months after Antonio was killed, West called police during a domestic dispute and said Santiago came to her window and yelled, “You killed my baby.”
Gough, the defense attorney, asked West about her knowledge of guns. She came from a law enforcement family and said she had some knowledge of firearms.
West planned to purchase a handgun of her own, but Gough said she had to clear her record first. Any possible criminal history of West was not discussed in court.
Ekonomoe, a prosecutor, said Gough’s line of questioning unfairly put West on trial.
“If you want to ask her if she killed her child, you can ask her,” Judge Kelley told Gough.
Gough didn’t immediately ask that question.
Another shooting victim testifies
Before West spent hours recounting how her baby was murdered, jurors heard about another attempted robbery that ended in a shooting Elkins is accused of committing 10 days before Antonio was killed.
Wilfredo Flores, a Brunswick pastor, spoke through an interpreter Tuesday telling jurors how he was shot in the left arm outside of his church by a black teenager he later identified as Elkins. Two other teenagers were present at the alleged robbery.
“It’s something that was very powerful,” Flores said. “It is still in my heart and mind.”
Elkins asked for his money and cellphone, Flores said, and he stood in shock before being shot in the arm.
“I stayed quiet. I was just kind of in shock, but he was asking for a cellphone. When he told me to give him the wallet ... that’s when he hit me right here,” Flores said pointing to his left arm.
Santiago, the father of Antonio, lived next door to Flores’ church, but Flores did not know immediately that he was the father of the baby who had been killed.