Lawyer: No gunshot residue on suspect

Defense attorney subpoenas slain boy's mother to testify Thursday

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The lawyer for one of the two teens charged in the shooting death of a south Georgia toddler says investigators found no gunshot residue on his client.

Thirteen-month-old Antonio Santiago was killed March 21. His mother, Sherry West, said she was pushing him in his stroller on a Brunswick street when two robbers confronted her, shot and killed her child, and slightly wounded her.

The next day, police arrested 17-year-old De'Marquise Elkins. He's scheduled to go on trial next month on charges of murder and attempted robbery. Dominique Lang is also charged with murder in the boy's killing.

Elkins' Attorney, Kevin Gough, made it very clear Wednesday that his client did not have any gunshot residue on him to link him to the shooting.

Antonio Santiago
Antonio Santiago

Gough has subpoenaed West to testify in court Thursday. He said he wants to know why she identified Elkins as a suspect.

"There is no gun shot residue on Markie Elkins. There is no gun shot residue on his clothing," said Gough. "We feel confident about saying that after reviewing evidence provided by the state in discovery."

But Gough believes this new twist weakens the prosecution's case against Elkins.

"I think it does because the gunshot residue is not on the hands of my client, but it's on the hands of Sherry West," said Gough.

Earlier this month, the defense filed a motion that revealed that the parents of the child, West and Louis Santiago, had positive traces of gunshot residue on them after the boy had been shot.

West said in a phone interview the residue likely got on her after touching her gunshot wound. She said the baby's residue may have gotten on the father when he visited her and the baby at the hospital.

West said she believes the suspect washed off the gun residue after shooting her and her baby.

Elkins' attorney responded to that claim.

"I'm not aware that Sherry West is any kind of expert on gunshot residue," Gough said. "I think we should let the experts address this issue when we go to court."

Local forensic expert Michael Knox said gun shot residue is short-lived evidence and can disappear from the skin after only four hours.

"What we'd want to know is how much time elapsed between when the shooting took place and when the sampling was done, which is actually taking samples from the person's hand," said Knox, "and also what kind of activity they were involved in at that time that may have gotten rid of it, etc."

Knox said it's also common for gun shot residue to transfer from person to person. He said examining gun shot residue in general is not that significant in law enforcement procedures, and may not be a smoking gun of evidence in court.

"It's not uncommon for attorneys on either side to make issues out of gunshot residue. They often are bigger issues than what the evidence really means," said Knox. "Gunshot residue, because of its nature how it can be easily transferred, easily wiped away, it doesn't necessarily put a gun in somebody's hand. It doesn't have the significance that often times the attorneys like to make it have."

Knox told Channel 4 that because of its nature, for example of being easily washed off and transferred, the FBI stopped analyzing gun shot residue years ago.

A pretrial hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Thursday to decide what evidence will be admissible in court. Elkins will be at the hearing.

The case is set to go to trial Aug. 19 in Cobb County near Atlanta.