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It was a shocking story from March of this year: De’Marquis Elkins, 17 at the time, deliberately murdered 13-month-old Antonio Santiago in his stroller, because Antonio’s mother carried no money when Elkins and an accomplice tried to rob her. Now, that tragic story has taken a turn for the bizarre. Elkins, who is being tried with his accomplice, Dominque Lang, 15, claims that Santiago’s mother and father put out a contract on their son in order to get insurance money.
On March 21st, his last day alive, little Antonio could toddle but not yet talk. His mother, Sherry West, strapped him in a stroller and took him for a walk near their apartment in Brunswick, Georgia. According to the story she told police at the time, 17-year-old Elkins and a 14-year-old companion suddenly confronted her, waving a gun, and demanding money. West cried as she told the Associated Press how Elkins deliberately slaughtered her child because he viewed it as the reason she had no money to give to him:
He asked me for money and I said I didn’t have it,” she said. “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!’
(Read More: Father Attacks His Own Daughter With A Sword.)
Despite her pleas, said Sherry, Elkin fired four shots. The first into the ground, the second at West’s head, the third into her leg . . . and the fourth?
The boy proceeded to go around to the stroller and he shot my baby in the face. And then he just shoved me when I started screaming and he ran down London Street with the little boy.
Elkins’ trial is set to begin next week, but it’s already clear that his defense is not the standard “I didn’t do it” version. Instead, Kevin Gough, his public defender, has filed pretrial motions that indicate that Elkins will claim that Antonio’s parents are the real killers.
Gough wrote in a motion he filed on August 5 that “Other evidence of record suggests Sherry West is mentally unstable, gave several inconsistent accounts of how the crime transpired, and had a financial interest in the death of her son in the form of an insurance policy.” Gough also attests to audio recordings and documents showing that Sherry had dealings with Gerber Life Ins. Co., a company that sells policies for children, even infants, with coverage ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.
Moreover, Ashley Glassey, West’s 21-year-old daughter told a Jacksonville, Florida, TV station that, soon after the shooting West called her and asked “How soon do you think the life insurance policy will send me a check?” In this context, it’s worth noting that Antonio was not the first child West lost to violence. Back in 2008 in New Jersey, West’s 17-year old son Shaun Glassey was part of a group of boys armed with knives who were trying to ambush another teen. The teen managed to fight back, and stabbed Glassey with his own knife, killing him.
Glassey refused to make the same statement under oath, however. While she was in jail for failing to appear in court on an unrelated case, one of Elkin’s attorneys interviewed her about the statement she made on television. According to a transcript, Glassey refused to repeat or confirm the story, saying that she did not want “to incriminate anyone.”
If he’s convicted for murder, Elkins will face life in prison, although his age when Antonio died – 17 – means that he will not get a death sentence.
Elkins himself is an unsavory character. Aside from the fact that Lang, his alleged accomplice, says that Elkins fired the shots that wounded West and killed Antonio, Elkins has a history of violence. Prosecutors claim that, just 10 days before Antonio was shot, Elkins shot Wilfredo Calix Flores. Flores identified Elkins as the man who shot him in the arm with a .22-caliber bullet during an attempted stick-up.
In part, Elkins’ defense (assuming he actually makes it) rests on the fact that both West and Louis Santiago, Antonio’s father, had gunshot residue on their hands. This could have come about, however, from their contact with the wound on West’s leg, since both West and Santiago touched it.
Elkins wasn’t arrested at the crime scene, but West did pick him out of a photo line-up. Aside from her visual identification, most of the incriminating evidence against him comes from his own family and from Lang. As noted above, Lang said that Elkin was the shooter, while Elkins’ mother and sister gave the police information that led them to a pond where they found a .22 caliber revolver – the type of gun used against Antonio. The two women were charged with evidence tampering, and Elkins’ mother has already been charged with lying to the police. Karimah Elkins will therefore stand trial alongside her son.
For little Antonio’s sake, we hope justice is done in this case.