Accused Baby Killer Hid Gun on Day of Crime, Witnesses Say
MARIETTA, Ga. (CN) - The Georgia teenager accused of murdering a baby in a stroller hid a gun under a sofa at a relative's apartment the day after the murder, two witnesses testified Monday.
De'Marquise Elkins, 17, is charged with the felony murder of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago. Elkins allegedly demanded a purse from the baby's mother, Sherry West, hit her with the gun when she refused, then shot her in the leg and shot her baby in the face.
Elkins' mother, Karimah Elkins, is being tried with her son on charges of obstructing justice by getting rid of the gun and lying to police to give her son a false alibi.
The second week of trial opened Monday with Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson's direct examination of Danielle Williams, a self-described "friend of the family."
Williams told the jury that De'Marquise Elkins came to the apartment she shares with Ronald Elkins and his wife on the morning of the murder. Ronald Elkins is Karimah Elkins' cousin.
"We chilled for a while, hung out for a while," Williams testified. "He asked if he could put his weapon under my couch. I told him yes. He put the gun under the red loveseat in the living room. Then he said he was going to his sister's house."
A few hours later, Williams said, Karimah Elkins and her sister showed up to get the gun.
"They knocked on the door, and his mom came in to get the gun," Williams testified. "They lifted up my couch, and Sabrina [Elkins] picked up the gun."
District Attorney Johnson asked: "Did they know where to go, or did they ask you where the gun was?"
"No, they just knew," Williams replied.
"What did the gun look like?" Johnson asked.
"It was a black gun. I didn't see him unload it; he went upstairs. I found a bullet in the hallway and I put it with my earring collection."
When interviewed by police, Williams said, she told them where to find the bullet, and said that the gun looked like a "cowboy gun."
On cross-examination, Glynn County assistant public defender Jonathan Lockwood asked Williams: "When you talked to Det. [Roderic] Nohilly, first you said that De'Marquise didn't leave anything, right? Then he told you, 'Right now you are a witness,' and he made it clear what would happen if you stopped being a witness, didn't he?"
"Yes," Williams replied.
Johnson called Ronald Elkins to the witness stand, who picked up where Williams left off.
Ronald Elkins told the jury: "I was asleep upstairs and I heard a lot of noise. I came downstairs and they [Karimah and Sabrina Elkins] were lifting up furniture. They pulled the gun from under the sofa.
"My grandbaby was there, so I didn't want a gun with bullets around. I took the bullets out of the gun and handed it back to Karimah."
Ronald Elkins said the bullets were all live rounds, and he described it as a small gun, "possibly a .25 caliber."
A longtime friend of Karimah Elkins, Willie Merrell, testified that he picked up Karimah and Sabrina after Karimah Elkins called him and asked him to drive her to the "fishing hole."
At the fishing hole, Merrell said, both women got out of the car.
"I didn't see them do anything, but I heard a splash. I never saw them with a gun," Merrell testified.
A few days after the murder, Merrell said, he called police to tell them about the "splash."
A police captain and a diver from Homeland Security, volunteering with Glynn County Police, both testified that acting on Merrell's information they found the salt marsh and retrieved the gun on March 26, five days after the murder.
The jury for the first time saw the alleged murder weapon, a .22-caliber revolver, when Glynn County Police Capt. Tommy Tindale removed it from the sealed evidence container.
Whether that gun was the weapon that wounded West and killed her son was the question asked of Brian Leppard, a ballistics examiner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Savannah.
Leppard testified that he received the bullets removed from Antonio Santiago and from West's leg and compared them to eight test-fires of the gun into a water recovery tank - a standard method of ballistics testing.
The results of the tests gave neither the prosecution nor the defense quite what they wanted.
Under direct questioning from the prosecution, Leppard said the bullet that struck West came from a different manufacturer than the bullet that killed baby Antonio.
"There were two different types of ammunition used," Leppard testified. "The one from Ms. West is brass-washed and the bullet from Santiago is a copper-washed bullet."
Leppard said that "both types of ammunition are quite common," and both could have been fired from the same gun.
Under cross examination, Glynn County Public Defender Steven Gough asked Leppard: "They [two bullets] cannot be identified as having or not having been fired from the weapon, right? Isn't it safe to say that, at the end of the day, the bottom line is that gun sitting up there on the witness stand - maybe it was used in this case or maybe not?"
"This is correct," Leppard replied. "I was unable to identify the weapon."
Leppard said the bullets could have been fired from the same gun, or the gun from the salt pond, or they could have been shot from two different guns.
The prosecution is expected to conclude its case today (Tuesday). Sherry West was expected to testify this afternoon.