But what Elkins allegedly told police as they were taking him into custody is now being used against him in the high-profile murder trial playing out in a Cobb County courtroom.
Police testifying Friday said Elkins, 18, bragged to officers who arrested him that “you ain’t got s--- on me. You ain’t got no gun.”
Police hadn’t told him the murder he’s accused of involved a firearm.
Elkins, of Brunswick, is charged with murder and cruelty to children in the point-blank shooting of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago in his stroller when he was returning from the post office with his mother March 21 in Brunswick. Elkins cannot be given the death penalty because he was not 18 at the time of the shooting, but faces life in prison if convicted by the Cobb County jury.
The trial has been moved to Cobb because of concerns about media coverage after the crime and racial tensions in Brunswick.
Elkins was arrested the morning following the shooting and told Glynn County police they didn’t have any evidence against him.
“As we’re walking (Elkins) out of the station, we walked down one of the halls toward the parking lot to transport him ... He said, ‘You ain’t got s--- on me. You ain’t got no gun. You ain’t got no fingerprints,” said Glynn County investigator Roderic Nohilly.
When another investigator smiled, Nohilly said Elkins responded, “Oh, you got the gun?”
Police had not told Elkins a gun was involved in the crime he is accused of committing.
Focus turns to Elkins’ mother
For the first time since the trial began Monday, attention was placed for a short time Friday on Karimah Elkins, mother of De’Marquise Elkins, also of Brunswick.
She is charged with making false statements and tampering with evidence for allegedly giving her son a false alibi during the time of Antonio’s shooting death and tossing the gun police say was used in the killing into a saltwater pond.
Karimah Elkins’ defense attorney, Wrix McIlvaine, maintains her constitutional rights were violated because police searched her home for De’Marquise Elkins without a search warrant and asked her questions without reading her rights.
But Stephanie Oliver, Glynn County police investigator, says police were allowed inside the home. She wasn’t read Miranda rights because she was not under arrest, Oliver said. Karimah Elkins could have left at any time and did not have to answer the officers’ questions.
“No investigator on the scene mirandized Karimah Elkins because it was not necessary,” Oliver said.
Still, McIlvaine says Karimah Elkins was likely intimidated when seven officers knocked on the door of her small efficiency apartment wearing bullet proof vests with guns drawn and asked to search her home.
“She answered the door in her pajamas and you’ve got your guns out, and you believe she allowed you to enter?” McIlvaine asked Oliver.
Karimah Elkins does not have custody of her son and he did not live with her at the time of the shooting. Oliver said the mother’s address was listed on records for De’Marquise Elkins and that’s why police chose to search the home.
McIlvaine brought court proceedings to a halt when he asked, “Was (the address) from an old juvenile record or something?”
That prompted a quick objection from defense attorney for De’Marquise Elkins, Jonathan Lockwood, suggesting the phrase “juvenile record” was unfairly damaging to the character of his client in the eyes of the jury.
State prosecutors and De’Marquise Elkins’ defense team agreed before the trial not to bring up any prior arrests he may or may not have, but McIlvaine said he wasn’t aware of that agreement.
The question about juvenile reports, McIlvaine said, referred to state records documenting that Karimah Elkins lost custody of her children after a stroke.
Damage had already been done, Lockwood said.
“The bell’s already been rung,” he said.
It would be the first of three requests for a mistrial that defense attorneys for De’Marquise Elkins would lodge Friday. If a mistrial were granted, proceedings would end and De’Marquise Elkins would have to be brought back to court for an entirely new trial.
All three requests were denied by Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley.
The courtroom remained heated throughout the day with defense attorneys for De’Marquise Elkins objecting to sometimes almost every question the prosecution asked of a witness.
Biologist: Residue can be present even if gun isn’t fired
The day of Antonio’s death, police tested both his mother and father for gunshot residue, which is found on individuals who have fired a gun or have been close to where a gun was fired.
Both parents tested positive.
Sherry West, the toddler’s mother, had more gunshot residue on her hands than the toddler’s father, Louis Santiago. Both parents are from Brunswick.
West was shot in the leg before Antonio was shot between the eyes just moments later.
Sarah Peppers, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation micro analyst, tested samples from West and Santiago for gunshot residue and said the results from West’s hands suggest she was around a gun when it was fired.
Santiago’s results indicate he could have had what Peppers called “secondary residue,” meaning residue picked up from another item containing the substance.
He had one particle of the residue on his hands. West had more than five. Biologists stop testing after more than five particles are found because it’s considered to be proof the individual was around a fired gun.
Prosecutors have said Santiago held West’s hand in the emergency room soon after the shooting.
“I can’t say whether that came from primary or secondary transfer ... but could one particle be secondary transfer? Yes, that’s possible,” Peppers said.
Peppers doesn’t usually perform a gunshot residue test on a victim, she said, because it’s already known they were present when a gun was fired.
She tested West at the urging of Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson. A documented request said Johnson wanted West tested to lay a foundation for the possibility of secondary transfer to Santiago, potentially ruling him out as the shooter.