Dressed in a blue, button-down-collar shirt and khaki pants, 17-year-old De'Marquise Elkins hardly looked like the gang member prosecutors tried to portray him as Friday.
Beneath that shirt, Elkins had all the markings of a gang member, and online he had openly posted the boasting of a gang member, a Glynn County police investigator said during testimony in Glynn County Superior Court.
Elkins was in Superior Court for the first time Friday after being indicted as the triggerman in the point-blank murder of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago and wounding of the infant's mother, Sherry West, during an attempted robbery March 21 on a Brunswick street.
His court-appointed lawyer, Public Defender Kevin Gough, wanted him to be released on bond from the Glynn County Detention Center until there is a trial.
Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley said no. Elkins posed too much of a threat to the community, possibly could commit a felony and was likely to flee from the county before a trial, Kelley ruled.
Elkins will remain in jail until he goes to trial on charges of murder, attempted armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony. The trial, Kelley said Friday, could begin this year.
During the hearing Friday on Gough's request to have bond set for Elkins, Roderic Nohilly, a Glynn County investigator who said he is trained to detect gang activity, testified that Elkins displayed markings commonly associated with gang members.
Those markings, Nohilly said, were a teardrop tattoo next to Elkins' right eye, a five-pointed star dotting the 'i' in a tattoo of his mother's name, Karimah Elkins, and in a "Thug Life" tattoo on his chest, a skull tattoo on his abdomen and a triangle shaped brand on his arm.
Nohilly said those are all common symbols representing an affiliation with People Nation, a national federation of street gangs that includes national gangs such as the Bloods, Cryps and Folk Nation.
Nohilly also testified that Elkins claimed on his Facebook page, a social networking website, to be a part of a group called Money-Ville. That suggested he could be involved with drug dealers who focus on the McIntyre Court public housing project in Brunswick, where Elkins was arrested March 22.
Elkins' possible gang affiliation surfaced publicly for the first time Friday. Police have said they have no indication so far that the attempted robbery of West at London and Ellis streets, in the Old Town neighborhood, was gang-related.
In response to Nohilly's assertions, Gough contended that Money-Ville is a common reference to the Brunswick neighborhood of Dixville and is not an indication of gang affiliation.
He also contended that Elkins could easily be a teenage poser, and probably did not know what the symbols in his tattoos mean.
"There are quite a few young men who run around town trying to pretend they're something they are not, aren't there?" Gough asked Nohilly.
Nohilly said there are. "Some of them carry guns," he added.
Pressing his attempt to have a bond set, Gough questioned Elkins' 78-year-old great-grandfather, McKinley Elkins, on direct examination and asked if he could guarantee De'Marquise Elkins would be properly supervised and would return to court if he was granted bond.
"I will see personally that he be here (in court)," McKinley Elkins said. "I truly believe, deep down in my heart, he will be a gentleman from this day forward."
District Attorney Jackie Johnson raised doubts about McKinley Elkins' statements when she asked on cross-examination if he knew where De'Marquise Elkins lived.
Although McKinley Elkins testified he saw De'Marquise Elkins almost every day, he told Johnson he thought De'Marquise Elkins was living with an aunt, but was unsure where he stayed on a regular basis.
Johnson also asked McKinley Elkins if knew De'Marquise Elkins so well, why was he unaware he had tattoos.
Ultimately, Kelley sided with Johnson and denied bond, saying there was too much uncertainty about what De'Marquise Elkins' would do, should he be released from jail.
"I find that he would be a significant risk," Kelley said.
He said Elkins is a flight risk who would not appear in court for a trial, someone who poses a threat to the community and someone who could possibly commit a felony while out of jail.
Gough said after the hearing, "Mr. Elkins is certainly disappointed with the decision, but he is also very encouraged by the speedy trial schedule the court is considering."
No trial date has been set, but Kelley said he expects the case to go to trial before the end of the year.
Attorneys will argue motions that have been filed since the indictment of Elkins on March 27 in a hearing on May 24, Kelley said.
Kelley told prosecutors Friday to give Gough all evidence collected in the case by May 10.
Elkins and his co-defendant, 15-year-old Dominique Lang, are to be in Superior Court April 18 to enter pleas to the indictments against them.
Lang is represented by Kimberly Copeland, a private-practice lawyer in Jesup, who has not filed a motion for a bond hearing for him. He is being held at the Savannah Regional Youth Detention Center.
* Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment and other local topics. Contact him at email@example.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320.