A teenager convicted of malice murder in the shooting death of a 13-month-old boy in Brunswick, Georgia, earlier this year was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole, plus 105 years.
Before Judge Stephen D. Kelley delivered De'Marquise Elkins' sentence, Sherry West, the victim's mother, read a poem about her child in open court.
"The love my life was taken away, far away," West said. "All I can do is cry and wonder when I am going to die. All that is near is fear."
A jury convicted Elkins, 18, on August 30 of 11 charges, including aggravated robbery, cruelty to children and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Elkins also was convicted of aggravated assault and other charges for shooting pastor Wilfredo Calix-Flores during a separate mugging 10 days before West's son, Antonio Santiago, was killed.
Elkins' mother, Karimah Elkins, who was tried along with her son, was convicted of tampering with evidence for her role in trying to cover up the shooting.
Elkins was spared the death penalty, because he was 17 when he shot Santiago. A Georgia law prohibits anyone who is under 18 during the commission of a crime from being executed. His mother could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for her conviction.
West wept on the stand last month during the trial as she recounted how Elkins shot her son in broad daylight on March 21, after he and another teen tried to mug her.
"I told him I have a baby and I have expenses and I didn't have it. He asked me if I wanted him to shoot my baby. I told him, 'Please don't shoot my baby.' He shot a warning shot into the ground," West said, weeping. "I asked him, 'Why are you doing this? Please don't do this.' It felt like he shot me in the ear. Then he shot me in the leg. My left leg."
West said one of the teens then allegedly did the unthinkable -- he aimed for the baby.
"I tried to stop him. I put my arms over my baby but he still shot him," she said. "He walked over and shot my baby."
During his closing argument, Elkins' attorney Jonathan Lockwood attacked West's recollection of the shooting, saying she couldn't confidently identify Elkins as the shooter. He also accused her of plotting her baby's death to profit from a life insurance policy.
"Sherry West is a woman who was very distraught, who was very emotional. But also who acted in a rather bizarre way. You saw the video of where she is laughing and cutting up with officers, and making jokes with them just after her child was murdered," Lockwood said.
"Incidentally, does anybody know what the protocol is for how you are supposed to act when you watch your child get shot in the face?" prosecutor Jackie Johnson said during her closing argument.
Johnson called the defense attorney's accusation that West planned her baby's death a "grand conspiracy" and an attempt to distract from the reality that his client is guilty.
"We have a defendant who preyed upon the weak. He preyed upon the weak when he was looking for Mexicans to rob, because he knows lots of times they can't speak English. They are afraid. They might be here illegally. They may not even report to police," said Johnson. "They don't see any more Mexicans that morning. They see something even better, something even more weak, something even more vulnerable, a mother and a child."
Johnson ended her closing argument with an emotional plea to the jury to find Elkins guilty of murder.
"This case cries out for malice," Johnson said.
The teenager accused of being Elkins' accomplice is Dominique Lang, who was 15 at the time of the shooting. Although Lang is a minor, CNN is identifying him because he is charged as an adult, and media outlets have been naming him since his arrest.
Lang has pleaded not guilty to the multiple charges against him, which include felony murder. He will go on trial later and also faces life in prison if convicted.
Lang testified against Elkins during the 18-year-old's trial, identifying him as the shooter.r