BRUNSWICK, Ga. - A 15-year-old suspect charged with murder in the killing of a Brunswick toddler made his first appearance in court Monday morning. A 17-year-old suspect also arrested in the killing made his first appearance Monday afternoon.
Dominique Lane appeared in court in the death of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago (pictured, below). Lane, 15, was initially reported to be 14 years old. A judge did not say if he is being charged as an adult. Investigators said he was an accomplice in the killing.
De'Marquise Elkins, 17, appeared in court Monday afternoon, and a preliminary hearing was set for next week. According to Georgia state law, 17-year-olds are considered adults in the criminal justice system.
Investigators said Elkins shot and killed the child as his mother pushed him in his stroller.
Both teens face first-degree murder charges.
Families, community react to charges
News that two school-aged teenagers were arrested for the murder of the toddler has parents in the community on edge.
"When I heard about the murder, the first thing I thought about was that my daughter could've gone to the same school as the guy who had done this," said Tina Barrientos.
Barrientos said it's difficult to grasp that an 8th grader at Glynn Middle School has been accused of such a tragic crime.
"It's just somebody they had in their class," said Barrientos. "It's hard for for them to believe that somebody they knew could do that, or be part of anything like that."
One parent Channel 4 spoke with wanted to remain anonymous, but said no one expected Lane to be involved.
"Seemed like a normal kid, and they knew him and everyone who knew him liked him," said the parent.
No one wanted to speak on camera Monday night about Elkins. Off camera, Channel 4 was told that Elkins had a troubled childhood and may have been abused. The Glynn County School district told Channel 4 that Elkins was turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice.
"I think it's sad. I was real shocked when I heard about it," said Parent, Patricia Mincey. "I'm just dumbfounded."
Suspects' grandmother: 'He's a victim'
"I feel sorry for the mother. I feel sorry for the baby. And my baby is innocent. He could've been dead too," said Brenda Moses, Lane's mother.
Outside court Monday, Moses and Lane's grandmother, Verdell Hunter, said Lane doesn't know Elkins. Hunter said her family doesn't know exactly what happened, but her grandson lives in the area and told her he was simply walking by when he saw Elkins.
"He's a victim," Hunter said. "He said that boy came up to him and said, 'I'm fixing to off you off. You a Mexican.' Because he had a hood on his head with the little thing in there. And my grandson said oh."
"My grandson is a victim," she added. "He could've been dead. The baby is a victim. The mother is a victim. My grandson is a victim. He's a victim."
Hunter said the killing is something her grandson would never be a part of, and his mother said he was merely a witness.
"My grandbaby ain't like that. He a baby, but he's not a baby killer," Hunter said. "So they need to get that straight. He's not a baby killer."
Kevin Gough, the Public Defender representing Elkins, and the teen's grandfather spoke at a news conference Monday.
"I have known Marquise since he was a little child. The Marquise we know, the Marquise we love would never do anything like this," Elkins' grandfather, McKinley Elkins, said.
He said the national attention on his grandson has been difficult for him and his family. He said they don't feel safe in their own community.
"The family is deeply concerned about bullying of the family members by the police," McKinley Elkins said. "Please stop. Ever more troubling for Marquise's family and friends is hateful racist remarks on the Internet posted about Marquise."
Lane is in eighth grade at Glynn Middle School. Elkins was enrolled in an alternative school in October 2011 that is now defunct.
"I would ask everyone to bear in mind that Marquise or De'Marquise 'Markie' Elkins is himself a child," Gough said. "His favorite television shows are cartoons, especially Tom and Jerry. He misses his family. He would like to go home."
Police in Georgia say an anonymous tip helped them make arrests. The Brunswick Police Department said Sunday that they got a tip that someone was crouched in the backseat of a vehicle as it drove away from the shooting Thursday. The Glynn County detective's division spent hours following up on the tip and eventually arrested the 15-year-old suspect. The boy's statements led them to Elkins, according to police.
Santiago's mother, Sherry West, said she was pushing her son in a stroller Thursday morning when Elkins and the younger boy approached and asked her for money. She said she told them she didn't have any, and said Elkins shot Antonio in the head. West said he also shot her in the leg.
Elkins' family says he did not shoot the child.
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