MARIETTA — The mother of a slain baby watched silently as her adult daughter testified that she was suspicious of her mother’s story after she asked about life insurance the day of the shooting.
It was an emotional reunion as Ashley Glassey, 21, took the stand for the defense, telling the jury how her mother, Sherry West, called her the day 13-month-old Antonio Santiago was shot between the eyes in Brunswick. Glassey is Antonio’s half-sister.
The trial was moved to Cobb County because of concerns about media coverage in Brunswick. De’Marquise Elkins is charged with murdering the toddler.
Glassey, of New Jersey, had only seen her mother for a few hours since she was 8 years old before she testified Wednesday. She was taken away from West along with her brother who was stabbed to death at age 18 in New Jersey. It’s not clear why West’s older children were removed from her custody, but she did have custody of Antonio.
“She called to tell me about Antonio’s death,” Glassey said, breaking down in tears. “She asked me how long I thought it would take to get the life insurance policy, the check that comes.”
West first told Glassey the baby was shot and then she was struck in the leg. Her second story was that she was shot first.
“The whole conversation just didn’t settle well with me,” Glassey said. “My mind was racing all night about the conversation I had with my mother.”
Concerned about the conversation, Glassey called Brunswick police and left a message to speak with the detective on the case because she said things didn’t add up.
But that call wasn’t returned until Glassey went to the media.
“(West) was very, very mad at me. She told me I have no business talking to the news. If they ask me anything, just tell them I have nothing to say,” Glassey said. “She said absolutely do not talk to anyone until after the trial. Then she stopped talking to me. She just yelled at me and that was it, and that’s the last time we talked.”
West: ‘I didn’t shoot my baby’
Jurors watched a two-hour video-recorded interview with police in which a sometimes hysterical West described the baby’s father’s stalking tendencies and her own mental illnesses.
“It’s eight days into the trial. It’s time to show the jury the real Sherry West ... this is all about keeping it off the evening news,” said Kevin Gough, lead defense attorney, about the prosecution’s objections to playing the interview.
Andrew Ekonomou, a prosecutor for the state, said that statement revealed the defense’s real reason for wanting to show the interview.
“Don’t allow this case to be tried in the media,” Ekonomou asked of judge Stephen Kelley.
During the interview, West described the attack, talked about her rocky relationship with the baby’s father, and outlined her plans to move away from Brunswick because she no longer felt safe.
Police asked West simply and abruptly, “Did you shoot your baby?”
“No, I didn’t shoot my baby,” West replied in the video. “I’m not making it up. The kid’s not going to stand there and get caught. He’s not going to say, ‘Hey, I did it.’ He’s a little bastard. His mom is probably a crack whore. His daddy probably wasn’t even there.”
She said drugs were rampant in Brunswick, though the street where the shooting took place is in the historic part of the city and is regarded as an affluent neighborhood.
“He had a motive and it was for money. Money is the root of all evil,” West said with a nervous laugh.
West told police she never married the baby’s father, Louis Santiago, but started trying to become pregnant when his hepatitis C began to make him sicker. She was afraid she wouldn’t ever have other children.
The couple didn’t always get along, she said, but if she pressed charges for his alleged stalking, he would not be able to collect disability checks and would not be able to help the baby financially.
Ex-wife: ‘My ex-husband had something to do with it’
Defense attorneys argued Wednesday to have charges against Elkins dropped based on what they say is “outrageous government conduct” without the jury present.
The defense’s allegations stem from conversations an ex-wife and ex-fiancee of Louis Santiago had with police that officers failed to follow up on, said Gough, lead defense attorney.
Sandra Holboy, his ex-wife, told Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley her relationship with Santiago was “terrifying, abusive.” She also said he had an addiction to alcohol, cocaine and marijuana.
The couple had three children together, two of which are living, and were married for 23 years. Holboy, who lives in Minnesota, hasn’t seen Santiago in 11 years and has not spoken to him in six years.
“Sometimes I would be on the floor in the fetal position with him kicking me,” Holby said, adding she was about six months pregnant at the time.
Santiago threatened to snap her daughter’s neck, burn down her house and have someone kill her along with her children.
“When I found out his child had been killed, I needed to call,” Holby said. She said she’d be haunted if she did not speak up, calling it a “moral and ethical duty.”
She called Brunswick police the day after the murder, but the call was not returned. Holby did not call back again.
“I believe my ex-husband had something to do with it, quite frankly,” Holby said.
Angela Carter, of Florida, had similar things to say and said he is “evil, vindictive, liar, murderer.” She was engaged to Santiago, and the relationship lasted for two years.
“He can make anybody believe him because he’s just the type of person who can sweet talk anybody and really make you fall for him,” Carter said.
She, too, called Brunswick police, but that call went unreturned.
“He will murder and he will blame someone else. The (police officer) told me if they needed more evidence they would contact me and I said, ‘Please. You need to investigate Antonio Santiago,’” Carter said. “And I did say he tried to kill me when I was pregnant with my daughter. The man basically just hushed me off the phone and I never heard another word.”
Santiago once told her that once her body was found, she wouldn’t be recognizable, she said.
Kelley did not make a decision on the request to dismiss charges Wednesday.
Defense tries to show ‘the real Sherry West’
Nearly every time the jury left the courtroom Wednesday, contentious and heated debate ensued between prosecution and defense attorneys.
At one point the defense asked Kelley for a directed verdict. That happens when a judge asks the jury to return a certain verdict after deciding that the evidence wouldn’t allow a reasonable jury to reach any other decision. After that, there is no reason for a jury to continue to decide the case.
Kelley denied the defense’s request, but the tension between the two sides was evident throughout the day. The defense also requested for at least the fifth time since the trial began that the judge declare a mistrial. That request was also shot down.
A mistrial would make the trial, including jury selection, start over again.
Tuesday, defense attorneys took shots at West’s credibility asking if she used illegal drugs, had sex for drugs or abused her children. She denied all of those accusations.
Elkins, if convicted, cannot be sentenced to death because he was only 17 when he allegedly killed the toddler.