BRUNSWICK — The defense attorney representing a Brunswick teenager accused of murdering 13-month-old Antonio Santiago says the infant's mother, Sherry West, refused to come to the door of her home twice Wednesday to accept a subpoena to appear Friday in Glynn County Superior Court.
Public Defender Kevin Gough, attorney for 17-year-old De'Marquise Elkins, said West should be held to the same standard as other people who have allegedly interfered with the investigation of the murder case.
To him, that means the same rules as were applied to Brunswick City Commissioner James Brooks when he was arrested for allegedly obstructing a police investigation.
Brooks, who has said he is a longtime acquaintance of the Elkins Family, was arrested March 28 and charged with interfering with a witness for telling Karimah Elkins, De'Marquise Elkins' mother, and his sister, Sabrina Elkins, they did not have to speak to police after De'Marquise Elkins' first court appearance, March 25. Brooks paid a total of $6,256 in bond to be released from jail on charges of witness tampering and obstructing a police officer.
Karimah Elkins, 36, and Sabrina Elkins, 19, were later arrested and indicted on charges of allegedly hiding the gun police say De'Marquise Elkins used to kill Antonio and wound West, and Karimah Elkins was also indicted for giving police a false alibi for her son.
West's actions Wednesday were no different than Brooks', Gough said Wednesday.
"This case is far too important for petty gamesmanship," he said. "The subpoena power is a constitutional guarantee at the heart of the justice system."
According to an affidavit by Renee Horton, assistant investigator for the Glynn County Public Defender's Office, that was filed Wednesday in Glynn County Superior Court, Horton and assistant public defender Ashley Wood had attempted to serve a subpoena on Antonio's father, Louis Santiago, at his apartment, across Union Street from where West resides.
After Santiago refused to come to the door, Horton and Wood walked over to serve a subpoena on West, the affidavit states. When she did not answer, Horton and Wood noticed Santiago outside on the sidewalk in front of his apartment, talking to someone on the speaker of a cell phone, Horton's written statement alleges.
As they approached Santiago in a second attempt to serve the subpoena, Horton and Wood overheard a woman's voice speaking loudly to Santiago, the affidavit states. As Horton and Wood approached West's door a second time and rang the doorbell, they heard West inside.
"I then heard a voice I recognized as Sherry West talking very loud," the affidavit says. "I heard Sherry West yell at Louis Santiago, 'Just tell them you don't know anything,'" the affidavit states.
Gough said Horton attempted to file a police report with the Brunswick Police Department following the subpoena refusal, but could not. "She spoke with several people, including an officer and a detective, and they told her to try back tomorrow," Gough said.
Horton and Wood attempted a second time at about 5 p.m. Wednesday to serve West with the subpoena, but were again unsuccessful.
Gough also said Wednesday the Glynn County Police Department attempted to refuse a subpoena to bring all evidence collected so far in the case to court Friday for a bond hearing for De'Marquise Elkins.
Gough said it was his understanding this was based on advice of the district attorney. Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson could not be reached by telephone for comment late Wednesday.
The Glynn County Police Department's custodian of evidence was ultimately served with the subpoena.
Gough also served the Brunswick Police Department and the Glynn County Sheriff's Office with similar subpoenas to bring their entire investigative case files to court Friday.
He said the evidence and West's testimony are needed to properly defend De'Marquise Elkins.
"It's clear that there's more to this case than meets the eye, and we'll continue our investigation wherever it leads," he said. "Mr. Elkins has pleaded not guilty, and we'll do our job to prove him so."
De'Marquise Elkins is to appear Friday before Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley for a bond hearing.
Elkins and co-defendant Dominique Lang, 15, also of Brunswick, are charged with the March 21 murder of Antonio and wounding of West during an attempted armed robbery at the intersection of London and Ellis streets, Brunswick, as West and her son were returning home from the Post Office.
Elkins has been indicted as the shooter. West told police he threatened to kill Antonio, who was sitting in a stroller, if she did not give him money.
West says she told him she did not have any money, and he then fired four shots: one into the ground, one that grazed her ear, one into her left leg and one that struck Antonio between his eyes.