MARIETTA, Ga. — A Cobb County jury on Friday convicted a Brunswick man of killing a sleeping toddler in his stroller.
Prosecutors say De’Marquise “Marky” Elkins killed 13-month-old Antonio Santiago and shot his mother, Sherry West, because she wouldn’t give up her purse, as Elkins demanded, during a March 21 robbery. West, who received a gunshot wound to the leg, testified against Elkins.
Elkins faces life in prison. Because he was 17 at the time of the crimes, he cannot be given the death penalty.
Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley will set the sentence at a later date in Brunswick, where he will decide whether Elkins will be eligible for parole.
Elkins’ attorney, Kevin Gough, issued a prepared statement that said he plans to appeal. He told reporters the all-white jury could be one basis for requesting a new trial.
“If you were a 17-year-old black man from Brunswick, Ga., and you were expecting a trial of your peers and 12 white people showed up to try your case, however hardworking, however impartial, you could understand why Mr. Elkins would be concerned,” he said.
The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for two hours, also convicting the teen of an attempted robbery 10 days earlier in which a pastor was shot in the arm when he refused to hand over money.
The Rev. Wilfredo Calix-Flores and two co-defendants from both crimes all testified against Elkins.
Attorneys completed their closing arguments at noon Friday, and Kelley read them a lengthy set of instructions about the law.
The two-week trial of Elkins, now 18, was held in Cobb County because the case has drawn international attention.
Defense attorney Jonathan Lockwood contended in closing arguments that Brunswick police got the wrong man based on the misidentification of the upset mother and biased witnesses and that detectives then refused to consider any other suspects. Instead, they made their evidence fit the case they wanted, he said.
“They already had their guy,” he said. “They were only going to look at that. They were going to pretty it up.”
Lockwood argued that Elkins’ co-defendant, Dominique Lang, 15, was the actual shooter and that he implicated Elkins to protect his cousin and best friend, Joe Lang, who was also supposedly involved.
Both Langs testified against Elkins. Dominique Lang is also charged with murder and will be tried later.
Lockwood reminded jurors that many witnesses, including both Langs, had admitted to lying about various details.
District Attorney Jackie Johnson responded by holding up still images from security video cameras that she said substantiate those witnesses.
“The video can’t conspire with those ‘making up stories,’ ” she said. “... All these ‘liars’ are telling you what happened in the case, but what they’re telling you matches up with the videotape.”
Elkins’ mother, Kamirah Elkins, was tried with him and was convicted of evidence tampering for tossing the murder weapon into a salt pond but acquitted of giving a false alibi. Prosecutors dropped a charge against her of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon because they couldn’t come up with paperwork on her guilty plea in October. They intend to charge her again.
Her attorney, Wrix McIlvaine, said he would have to confer with her about whether to appeal her evidence-tampering conviction. Her daughter Sabrina Elkins, 19, also faces evidence-tampering charges and will be tried later.
Johnson accused De’Marquise Elkins of preying on the weak. Elkins decided to rob Calix-Flores because he believed Hispanics were less likely to put up a fight or report the crime, she said, and he tried to rob West because a mother with a child is also vulnerable.
“I don’t know anyone more weak than a sleeping baby,” Johnson said.
McIlvaine offered his observation about the Elkins family members with their brushes with the law.
“I think crime is borne out of poverty and lack of education and any number of factors, and the Elkins family has had a hard go of it,” he said. “... I don’t believe they’re a violent family. I don’t think there is a violent criminal family (type). They are just products of their environment.”