Sherry West, mother of slain toddler Antonio Santiago, testifies in Judge Stephen Kelley's courtroom on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, in Marietta during the murder trial of De'Marquise Elkins, the Brunswick teen accused of shooting her toddler in the face. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution,Johnny Crawford)
Photo: JOHNNY CRAWFORD/JCRAWFORD@AJC.COM
Photo: JOHNNY CRAWFORD/JCRAWFORD@AJC.COM

Mom of Brunswick toddler identifies defendant as killer

The mother of the Brunswick toddler shot between the eyes while in his stroller identified the 18-year-old defendant as her baby’s killer during dramatic testimony Tuesday that extended well into the evening.

Sherry West said she was certain De’Marquise Elkins, 18, was the killer. “He was standing 2 feet away from me,” she testified, recalling March 21, the day her 13-month-old baby, Antonio Santiago, died.

Elkins, charged with malice murder, felony murder, child cruelty, attempted armed robbery and multiple counts of aggravated assault, is on trial in Cobb County along with his mother. Karimah Elkins is accused of lying to police and throwing the .22-caliber handgun used to shoot the baby into a salt-water pond north of Brunswick.

The trial was moved to Cobb because of the extensive media coverage the case has received.

Elkins’ attorney, Kevin Gough, stated in a pretrial motion that West had “financial interest in the death of her son,” referencing a life insurance policy she had taken out before the toddler’s death. West’s 21-year-old daughter, Ashley Glassey, told reporters in the days following the shooting that West called to ask how long it would take before the insurer sent her a check.

West testified she received $5,000 from Gerber Life Insurance Company, approximately $2,000 of which went toward funeral expenses.

She watched quietly as lawyers sparred over the defense’s wide-ranging cross-examination — specifically, questions about her relationship with Antonio’s father, Louis Santiago.

West confirmed, under questioning, that she suffered from post-traumatic stress, bipolar and borderline personality disorders. Gough contended the medications she took could result in memory loss and “visual hallucinations.”

“Where are we going with this cross-examination? What is the end here?” asked Brunswick Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Andrew Ekonomou.

Gough responded that “one or both parents” may have been involved in their son’s death.

Direct evidence implicating them has yet to be presented, though there were some inconsistencies in West’s testimony.

Her claim that she immediately identified Elkins as the suspect was contradicted by evidence that, when presented an assortment of photographs of Brunswick youths who were not in school that day, she instead identified his alleged accomplice, Dominique Lang.

Lang testified last week that he witnessed Elkins shoot the toddler though he admitted telling more than a dozen lies to investigators.

West, describing the two young men who approached her and Antonio on March 21, testified, “One looked 15 and the other one looked 5.”

Elkins was 17 at the time of the shooting; Lang, 14.

“The big one approached me and demanded I give him money,” West testified. “I told him I didn’t have any.”

Elkins, she said, fired a warning shot to the ground before pointing the gun at her head.

“I ducked,” she said. “I asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’”

A third shot hit her leg. Then, according to West, Elkins approached the stroller, where, moments earlier, Antonio had been sleeping.

“I put my arms over my baby but he still shot him,” she testified.

Testimony ended abruptly after the state asked the judge to stop the personal and, it argued, irrelevant cross-examination of West. The defense asked about her sex life, past drug use and allegations of child abuse.

The prosecution said West will be their last witness in a trial expected to last through the end of the week.

Elkins faces life in prison if convicted.

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