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Teen convicted of killing baby gets life in prison

By Russ Bynum

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:42 a.m. HST, Sep 13, 2013

BRUNSWICK, Ga. » A Georgia teen convicted of fatally shooting a baby in a stroller was sentenced Thursday to spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole after the grieving mother asked a judge to punish the gunman for taking "the love of my life."

De'Marquise Elkins, 18, stood silent and showed no emotion as he was sentenced in a courtroom less than two weeks after a jury found him guilty of murder in the slaying of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago during a robbery attempt.

"His first word was never heard. His first sentence was never said," Sherry West, the baby's mother, said through tears on the witness stand as she read a statement made to rhyme like a poem or a nursery rhyme. "He never got to sleep in a toddler bed."

The baby was in his stroller and out for a walk with his mother when he was shot between the eyes March 21 in the Georgia coastal city of Brunswick. West, and a younger teenager charged as an accomplice, both testified at trial that Elkins killed the baby after his mother refused to give up her purse.

The killing drew national attention and Elkins' trial was moved more than 300 miles away to the Atlanta suburbs because of pretrial publicity.

Elkins was spared the death penalty because the killing occurred when he was 17, which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled is too young to face capital punishment. Under Georgia law, the only possible punishments for Elkins were life with or without a chance of parole.

Elkins' defense attorneys told Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley that life without parole was too harsh for such a young defendant. They introduced court documents from the past seven years showing Elkins had been neglected by a mother who struggled with drug abuse and sometimes left him home alone without food.

The judge not only gave Elkins the maximum possible punishment for his murder conviction, but also sentenced him to 105 additional years in prison for other counts including aggravated assault and attempted armed robbery. That included 30 years for shooting and wounding a pastor outside his church 10 days before the killing.

"We're definitely disappointed with the ruling," defense attorney Kevin Gough said as he left Glynn County Superior Court. "Life without parole for a juvenile, our position remains, is cruel and unusual punishment."

Gough said he plans to appeal both the verdict and the sentence. Elkins would have been eligible for parole in 30 years had that been allowed as part of his sentence.

Ultimately the judge sided with prosecutors who spoke of the brutal circumstances of the crime and that Elkins escaped facing the death penalty only because he was a few months shy of his 18th birthday when the baby was slain.

"He aimed that gun right between that baby's eyes and shot that baby," District Attorney Jackie Johnson said. "I don't know of a more inhumane act or wantonly vile act ... than to aim a gun at a sleeping baby in a stroller and take that baby's life."

At trial, prosecutors had said West was pushing her son in his stroller home that March day from a post office when two teenagers approached her, blocks from her apartment.

Dominique Lang, 15, testified at trial he was with Elkins when the older teen pulled a gun and demanded West's purse. When she refused, Lang said, Elkins twice threatened her baby and counted down from five.

West testified she pleaded with Elkins that she had no money and tried to cover her child with her arms as the gunman fired a warning shot, a bullet into her leg and then shot the baby.

West left the courthouse Thursday without comment after sentencing. On the witness stand, she told the judge he deserved "a life in prison."

"The love of my life was taken away, far away," West said. "All I can do is cry and wonder when I'm going to die."

Police recovered a .22-caliber revolver from a pond, and prosecutors said it matched the gun used in the killing.

Lang also faces murder charges. No trial date has been set and it's unknown how his cooperation in the Elkins prosecution might affect his case.

Elkins' mother, Karimah Elkins, stood trial alongside him and was convicted of evidence tampering for helping dispose of the gun. Elkins' sister and aunt have also been charged with trying to help him avoid prosecution.

Elkins' never testified at his two-week trial in August. But his defense attorneys argued police rushed to build a case against Elkins without considering other possible suspects. They even suggested the slain child's own parents may have been the real killers.

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Pocho wrote:
That whole Elkins family should go to jail for life. Really sad family, nothing good will ever come out of them
on September 13,2013 | 05:57AM
lokela wrote:
on September 13,2013 | 06:09AM
tiwtsfm wrote:
Really! We are going to house and feed this sicko for the rest of his life?
on September 13,2013 | 07:14AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Its not going to happen. Those that do harm to children are often killed by other prisoners. There is a very high probability that the prison population will serve the justice that the US Supreme Court failed to do in this case.
on September 13,2013 | 07:43AM
ellinaskyrt wrote:
The US Supreme Court was involved with this case? How so?
on September 13,2013 | 08:00AM
lee1957 wrote:
A few years ago SCOTUS ruled that captial punishment for minors was unconstitutional. I can't remember which justice cited laws and norms in other countries as the basis for his opinion, one of the more buffoonish opinions to come out of the court.
on September 13,2013 | 12:09PM
ellinaskyrt wrote:

In other words, the Supreme Court was not directly involved in this case. I get the point you're making about Roper v. Simmons--that death penalty was off the table because the killer was a minor. But livinginhawaii stretched misleadingly by saying that SCOTUS failed in *this* case.

For the record, I agree with the findings of Roper v. Simmons. If we, as a community, don't believe that those who are under the age of 18 have the maturity and mental development to serve on a jury, then it follows that we should see them as also being too immature to deserve the most dread penalty allowed in the nation. There shouldn't be an exception made just because the killer in this case was only a few months shy of his 18th birthday. There should always be a bright line when it comes to public sanctioned execution.

on September 13,2013 | 03:47PM
Ewaduffer wrote:
This case was heard in the US Supreme Court???? Really???
on September 13,2013 | 08:10AM
steveoctober wrote:
Very true, he will have no friends after shooting a baby AND a pastor. I can't think of a worse combination. Now he's going to have to hide from religious fanatics and anyone in prison who's a father. Guards, being lowly paid, will earn money by setting up gambling pools to see which prisoner can inflict the most horrific pain. Therefore, life in prison is poetic justice after all.
on September 13,2013 | 02:15PM
st1d wrote:
hawaii had a 16 year old sociopath sentenced to life. he finished serving it a few years later in halawa. elkins will probably end up the same way. too dangerous for even the prison population to put up with. too bad he had to shoot a pastor and kill a baby to get there.
on September 13,2013 | 08:38AM
2localgirl wrote:
Elkins' defense attorneys told Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley that "life without parole was too harsh for such a young defendant. They introduced court documents from the past seven years showing Elkins had been neglected by a mother who struggled with drug abuse and sometimes left him home alone without food." Oh so then this cruel punishment for killing a 13 mos old is too tough? the shooter it appears according to the defense is 'damaged' by his mother. What better place to contain someone like that than in prison for the rest of his life. A pastor one week, a baby and mother the following week? What next, no prison is too good of a spot for him...death is only fair but he was 'too young' and didn't know better...
on September 13,2013 | 09:45AM
lee1957 wrote:
Send mom to jail too.
on September 13,2013 | 12:10PM
poidragon wrote:
He is a direct product of his broken environment and mistreatment from his mother, the system failed him and so did his family, creating a defective, amoral person with little to no morality or ethical standards to guide him in his wasted life. Jail will not rehabilitate him, but only embitter him more, anc continue to perpetuate the cycle of violence in his life, such a waste.
on September 13,2013 | 06:51PM
kimpira wrote:
And the defense attorney! No wonder attorneys get a bad rep.
on September 13,2013 | 10:01AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Like the defense attorney for Deedy.
on September 13,2013 | 12:16PM
Kaimukirat wrote:
Huh? All that guy did was make the State prove that what Deedy did is murder. He didn't try to suggest that someone else was the shooter. Plus shooting a baby between the eyes in cold blood is way worse than killing someone in a fight. Even then, though, everyone is entitled to a defense. It's an adversarial situation and both the State and the Defendant should have energetic counsel.
on September 13,2013 | 02:17PM
poidragon wrote:
Deedy had a choice to walk away, he did not choose to do so, thus effectively gauranteeing the death of his victim by gun violence; it was not self defense, that went out the window when Agent Deedy consciousely decided to stay and continue the arguement instead of walking away!
on September 13,2013 | 06:58PM
UhhDuhh wrote:
Everybody has a constitutional right to own a gun so they can defend themselves against menacing babies in strollers.
on September 13,2013 | 10:23AM
steelinhome wrote:
There is an epidemic of black on non-black violent crime that the mainstream media will not pursue as newsworthy. Political correctness will destroy this country.
on September 13,2013 | 11:33AM
stingray65 wrote:
Why waste tax payer money? FIRNING SQUAD!!
on September 13,2013 | 11:42AM
lee1957 wrote:
Here is the statement from Al Sharpton: Here is the statement from Jesse Jackson: Ben Jealous of the NAACP had this to say:
on September 13,2013 | 12:11PM
hanaboy wrote:
I am horrified at what was done, but why didn't the mother just give them her purse? A purse is more important that your baby's life? If someone threatens to shoot your child, wouldn't you do everything in your power to prevent that from happening? Just a sad situation all around!
on September 13,2013 | 03:54PM
onevoice82 wrote:
my first thought too!
on September 13,2013 | 04:57PM
poidragon wrote:
Sending Elkins to prison will not change him, but only embitter him to the society that callously disregarded him and his troubles growing up as a child of a drug abusing mother. GIving him the death penalty would have been a kinder punishment instead of locking him away from society for the rest of his life!
on September 13,2013 | 06:43PM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
This man should be forced to live in a cell four fee by four feet and forced to listen to the cries of a baby for one hour a day to remind him why he is in prison. What a low life.
on September 13,2013 | 07:28PM
joseph007 wrote:
for that in Hawaii, it's only 5 years probation!!!!
on September 14,2013 | 09:06AM
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