Defense setbacks in toddler-slaying trial

MARIETTA, Ga. — The judge in the trial of a Brunswick man accused of killing a toddler in his stroller dealt defense attorneys some blows Wednesday as they began to present their case.


Prosecutors had wrapped up their own case Wednesday morning with the testimony of Sherry West, the mother of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago. West was shot in the leg March 21 during what prosecutors call an attempted robbery.

She has identified De’Marquise Elkins, 18, as the gunman. He is being tried in Cobb County because of the amount of news coverage in Glynn County, where the shootings occurred.

Before Elkins’ attorneys could resume their cross-examination of West, Judge Stephen Kelley ruled on a prosecution motion that had halted testimony Tuesday evening. He blocked the attorneys from questioning West about any alleged drug use, sex for drugs or mistreatment of her older children a decade ago.

Kelley concluded those allegations were not recent enough or similar enough to the child’s death for defense attorneys to bring up as ways to show someone else shot Antonio.

“The reason the court has to have these rules is boundaries,” he said.

He also denied defense motions to toss out the individual charges against Elkins and his mother, Karimah Elkins, 36, who is being tried on charges of providing a false alibi to police on his behalf and of evidence tampering.

Kelley postponed seven defense motions for a mistrial for various reasons.

During West’s final moments of cross-examination, she repeatedly batted away questions about whether she had changed her story in talking to the police and reporters or whether she had misidentified Elkins. To most questions she replied, “I don’t recall” or “possibly.”

“I just remember identifying him and being sure,” she said.

The first defense witness was West’s 21-year-old estranged daughter, Ashley Glassey, of Runnemede, N.J., who was released from a New Jersey jail on shoplifting charges long enough to testify.

During tearful testimony, Glassey said she never met Antonio and hadn’t seen her mother before Wednesday except briefly four years ago ever since West lost custody when Glassey was 8. West called her the evening of the killing to give the news of her stepbrother’s death.

“She asked me how long I thought it would take to get the life insurance policy, the check to come,” Glassey said, explaining that she was familiar with insurance after having recently handled her grandmother’s affairs.

That night, Glassey had trouble sleeping because in the retelling over the phone West had changed the order of who was shot first, mother or child. It bothered Glassey enough to call Brunswick police, who never returned the call or investigated, according to the testimony.

“Some things she said to me just didn’t add up,” Glassey said. “I felt like I got blown off (by police).”

West sat ramrod straight in the second row of the audience, wringing her hands, as Glassey told how her mother had memory problems and instructed her not to talk to reporters.

The next defense witness was Linda Knight, a retired speech pathologist who lived across the street from the shooting scene. She said she was in the rear of her house when she heard three gunshots and ran to the front door, which opens onto London Street.

“I couldn’t see anything,” she said, adding that only the stroller handle and West’s head were visible behind some shrubs.

“I’m sorry if I said it the wrong way,” she apologized to defense attorney Kevin Gough.

She said that her daughter had been able to see more of the scene.

The defense is expected present a deposition from a man who rode up on a bicycle shortly after the shooting and used a cellphone Knight’s daughter had but was too panicked to call 911.

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