'I Saw Him Shoot My Baby,' Mother Testifies in Murder Trial
MARIETTA, Ga. (CN) - Sherry West, whose year-old baby was shot to death in a stroller, pointed to De'Marquise Elkins from the witness stand Tuesday and said, "I saw him shoot my baby."
Elkins, 18, is charged with the felony murder of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago. He also is charged with shooting West and trying to rob her.
Elkins' mother, Karimah, is being tried with her son, charged with obstructing justice by throwing the gun into a swamp and lying to police.
West testified for 4 hours Tuesday about the shootings on a street in the historic Old Town area of Brunswick, Ga.
If convicted of murder, De'Marquise Elkins faces up to life in prison.
Dominique Lang, 15, also is charged with murder and will be tried separately. He has testified that he was with Elkins when the crime began, but said he ran away when the shooting started and heard, but did not see, the shot the killed the baby.
Also to be tried separately is Karimah Elkins' sister, Sabrina, who is charged with tampering with evidence.
The jury trial was moved from Glynn County to Cobb County because of pre-trial publicity.
Entering the courtroom, West, dressed in black, walked by Antonio's empty stroller, wrapped in evidence tape and brown paper, then sat in the witness chair.
Glynn County Special Prosecutor Andrew Eknomou asked her to tell the jury what happened that day, March 21.
With tears in her eyes at times and a trembling voice, West said she needed a stamp for a letter, so she bundled up her son and put him in a stroller to walk to the post office.
"I dressed him to go out at 8 a.m. It was cold. I put on his sweatpants, sweatshirt, mittens and a hat." She began to weep.
Eknomou prompted: "Didn't you put a cute little hat on him?"
"I put on a hat, it was blue, to match his mittens," West sobbed. A few jury members sobbed too.
West said she spent about an hour at the post office and left around 9 a.m. As she walked home she was approached by two black males.
"I was five minutes from my home. Two boys were walking down the street. We were both walking toward each other," West said.
"I moved to the right, so they could go past me."
West said the two boys were different in height and age.
"One was tall and the other was very short. The tall one looked to be about 15, and the short one looked like he was five," she said.
"The big one approached me and demanded me to give me money. I told him I didn't have any. He repeated it. He said, 'Give me your money.'
"Again, he demanded me to give him my money, and I told him that I had a baby and had expenses and I didn't have any money."
Sobbing, West continued: "He asked me if I wanted him to shoot my baby, and I said, 'Please don't shoot my baby.'"
West said Elkins pulled a gun from the waist of his pants and shot a warning bullet into the ground, then took aim at her.
"He pointed it at me and tried to shoot me in the head and I ducked.
"I asked him, 'Why are you doing this? Please don't do this.' It felt like he shot me in the ear, then he shot me in the leg - my left leg."
Then, West said: "He walked over and shot my baby."
The baby died from a bullet between his eyes.
After he shot her baby, West said, Elkins tried to wrestle her purse from her, and when she wouldn't let go he hit her in the head with the gun.
She said both boys fled on foot, leaving her alone, screaming for help.
She repeatedly identified De'Marquise Elkins as the shooter during her testimony, through photo lineups from Glynn County Police and directly, in the courtroom.
Eknomou asked: "Do you see in this courtroom today, the person who hit you in the ear and shot you in the leg?"
Pointing toward De'Marquise Elkins she said: "The young man in the blue shirt and he has a tie on."
Eknomou asked: "Do you see in this courtroom today the man that shot and killed your baby Antonio Santiago?"
"Yes" she said, crying. "The young man in the blue."
De'Marquise Elkins slouched forward in his chair each time she pointed at him, and stared straight ahead.
On cross-examination, Glynn County Public Defender Kevin Gough attacked West's credibility, questioning her vision and memory.
Gough asked West to review a set of 60 mug shots she was shown during interviews with the Glynn County Police Department after her baby was killed.
When she finished, he asked: "Have you seen that exhibit before?"
"Yes, I believe so," she replied.
"Is it fair to say that within all of the people in the composite of the pictures that the one on top is the shooter?"
"The picture you just identified is of Dominique Lang, Ms. West," Gough said.
West looked confused.
"But you positively identified Elkins as the shooter in two photo lineups previously, right? So why would you positively identify Dominique Lang this morning instead of Elkins?" Gough asked.
"I saw so many photos, I may have been confused," she said.
"Didn't you have surgery for a damaged cornea, Ms. West?" Gough asked.
"Yes," she replied.
As Gough continued to hammer West's recollection of the crimes, and throughout his cross-examination, she confirmed that she has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and paranoia.
Gough asked if the side effects of the prescription drugs she takes for these conditions, which may include hallucinations and psychotic breaks, had an impact on her perceptions.
"I don't know, possibly," she said, defiantly.
Citing an interview transcript of her questioning by Glynn County police, Gough said repeatedly that West had made "bizarre" statements: that her child's pediatrician was involved in Antonio's death, and her next-door neighbor, whom Gough said West described as a "crackhead."
As the trial reopened Tuesday, with the jury present, prosecutors tried to link the robbery and shootings to a robbery and shooting that happened 10 days earlier.
A pastor of a Brunswick church, Wilfredo Calix Flores, testified that on March 11 he and another man, Clever Jimenez, were working on a fence outside the church when three boys surrounded them, demanded money and cell phones, then one pulled out a .22 revolver and shot Flores.
Speaking through an interpreter, Flores said: "He pulled the revolver out and started threatening me, telling me to give him my cell phone. He came toward me, all the time threatening me, telling me to give me his wallet. My companion answered him and he told him, 'No money.' And when he told me to give him the wallet, and I turned to the right and he shot me in the shoulder."
Flores said Glynn County Police detectives showed him a lineup of photos and he and Jimenez identified Elkins as the shooter in that case.
Defense attorneys argued that both Latino men were scared of being deported, so they went along with what police told them.
Both men denied that they identified Elkins out of fear of deportation.
The state was expected to rest its case this morning (Wednesday).