Georgia judge says he wants trial before year ends

 

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A judge said Friday he wants a trial before the end of the year for a teenager charged with fatally shooting a 13-month-old baby in the face during a street robbery two weeks ago.

Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley didn’t give a tentative trial date for 17-year-old De’Marquis Elkins. District Attorney Jackie Johnson told the judge she thought investigators would have evidence ready to share with Elkins’ defense lawyers next month. The judge scheduled the suspect’s next hearing for May 24.

“I do expect we will try this case by the end of this year,” Kelley told the attorneys at the end of a bond hearing Friday morning.

The judge denied Elkins’ request for bond, saying he was concerned the suspect might flee if he was released.

Elkins faces life in prison if convicted of malice murder in the March 21 slaying of Antonio Santiago. Police say the boy was shot in a robbery attempt. His mother, Sherry West, has said she was pushing her son in his stroller a few blocks from her apartment when two youths approached asking for money. When she refused, she said, one of them drew a gun and shot her in the leg before shooting her baby in the face.

An indictment last week identified Elkins as the person who pulled the trigger. Another teenager, 15-year-old Dominique Lang, has been charged with murder as an accomplice.

“Mr. Elkins is certainly disappointed with the decision” to deny him bond, said Kevin Gough, the suspect’s defense attorney. “But he is also every encouraged by the speedy trial schedule the court is considering.”

Gough had urged the judge to consider bond for Elkins based on his lack of any prior felony record, though Elkins pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession and giving a false name to a police officer.

The suspect’s 78-year-old great-grandfather, McKinley Elkins Jr., took the witness stand and promised he would look after his great-grandson if he was released from jail pending trial.

But just how well the great-grandfather knew Elkins was called into question when he was unable to tell District Attorney Jackie Johnson where the teenager went to school, whether he had any tattoos, or even where he lived.

Roderic Nohilly, a Glynn County police detective, told the judge Elkins had several tattoos – a teardrop by his right eye, his mother’s name on his right arm, a skull on his abdomen and the words “Thug Life” across his chest.

Nohilly said Elkins’ tattoos contained symbols affiliated with gangs. Gough argued that Elkins’ tattoos aren’t proof that he’s a gang member.

“Are you familiar with the word ‘poser,’ ” Gough asked the detective. “There are quite a few young men who run around town trying to pretend they’re something they are not, aren’t there?”

Nohilly said he agreed there were. “Some of them carrying guns,” he said.

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