Family of U.S. teen accused of shooting toddler says he wasn't near scene
Published Friday, March 22, 2013 2:20PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 23, 2013 11:15PM EDT
BRUNSWICK -- The mother of a baby shot dead in his stroller took one look at a teenage suspect's jailhouse mugshot Saturday and said he was definitely the killer. Yet an aunt of the teen said he was eating breakfast with her when the slaying took place.
Despite the conflicting stories, police have charged 17-year-old De'Marquise Elkins with murder, along with a 14-year-old suspect whose name has been withheld because he's a juvenile.
Brunswick police spokesman Todd Rhodes said even though Elkins' aunt provided an alibi, authorities have good reason to bring the charges.
"That's what she's saying, but the evidence we're looking at says something else," Rhodes said, though he would not elaborate.
Also Saturday, police in this coastal port city released emergency call recordings from neighbours who sobbed and pleaded for help right after 13-month-old Antonio Santiago was shot in the head a few blocks from his mother's apartment.
Sherry West said she was pushing her baby in his stroller as she walked home from the post office Thursday morning. She said a teenager, with a younger boy behind him, approached and asked her for money. West said when she told him she had no money, the teen drew a gun and said: "Do you want me to kill your baby?"
The gunman opened fire and West was shot in the leg, while another bullet grazed her left ear, she said. She watched helplessly as the gunman shot her son in the face, she said.
Two teddy bears, a vase of flowers and a decorative cross had been left Saturday against a wooden fence near the shooting scene.
Katrina Freeman said Saturday the shooter can't be her nephew, Elkins, because he showed up at her house Thursday at 8:15 a.m. -- roughly an hour before the killing. She said she cooked eggs, grits and sausage for breakfast and that Elkins accompanied her and her children to run errands when they left at about 11:30 a.m.
"He was with us the whole time," said Freeman, adding that she gave police the same account of her nephew's whereabouts. "There is no doubt in my mind that he is innocent."
The slain boy's mother said she picked the gunman out of a photo lineup of 24 mugshots police brought to her Friday. When a reporter showed her the photo of Elkins taken when he was booked into the Glynn County jail Friday, she wept and nodded.
"He killed my baby, and he shot me, too," she said.
At her apartment Saturday, West had filled several bags with her son's clothes and diapers to donate to charity. She said she hopes prosecutors pursue the death penalty in the case.
"My baby will never be back again," West said, sobbing. "He took an innocent life. I want his life, too."
In 2008, West's 18-year-old son was stabbed to death in an altercation in New Jersey. Prosecutors said the stabbing was self-defence and did not file charges.
In Georgia, police said they are still searching for the gun. No eyewitnesses have come forward.
In the emergency call recordings, two callers said they heard gunshots and then saw West take her son out of his stroller, lay him on the ground and try to revive him using cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
"Yes, I heard the shots. Somebody shot this child," said one sobbing caller, who told the operator there were three shots fired. "She's got him on the ground. Please, we need everything we can get."
The emergency operators asked the callers if the boy was breathing. Finally, a man in a grave voice, answers: "No, the baby's not breathing." He says the child was shot "right between the eyes."
A woman can be heard screaming in the background just before police arrive. Sirens drowned out her cries.
Elkins' relatives said Saturday they don't know if he has an attorney. His older sister, Sabrina Elkins, said police arrested him as he came to her home Friday.
"The police came pointing a Taser at him, telling him to get on the ground," she said. "He said, 'What are you getting me for? Can you tell me what I did?"'
The suspect's sister said he returned to Brunswick a couple of months ago after living in Atlanta for a while. While he wasn't enrolled in high school, she said, he had been taking classes to earn his high school equivalency diploma.
"He couldn't have done that to a little baby," Sabrina Elkins said. "My brother has a good heart."