Baby Santiago Killing; Mother Gives Conflicting Stories, Father’s Alibi Doesn’t Check Out

Photo of Antonio Santiago, taken by Sherry West

Photo of Antonio Santiago, taken by Sherry West

Sherry West began making talk show and news interview appearances just days after the young Antonio Santiago was killed. She appeared on CNN on March 26th, giving the following statement.

“I was walking home from the post office from mailing a letter and I was 5 minutes from my home. I was approached by a young man and some other boy that was hiding behind him, and he yelled at me, give me your money, and I proceeded to tell him that I don’t have any. And he shot — pulled out a gun and shot at the ground.

“And I didn’t see any shells, so I thought the gun was a cap gun or a bee-bee gun. I thought he was using a toy gun to scare me. Then he shot at my head and the bullet grazed my ear and the side of my head. And then he shot me in the leg. And I still thought that it was a fake gun. And you know, neighbors had BB guns, and it stung. I injured my leg moving furniture days before and I was on pain medicine, so I didn’t feel it. But I felt stinging. And then it got numb.

“And I didn’t realize, you know, that it was real. It didn’t look like a real gun. And apparently he kept asking me and I kept telling him I don’t have any.
And he shot my baby in the face. And then I knew it was a real gun. And I screamed and I was scared to scream because I thought he was going to shoot me in the head and not miss that time. And then when I kept screaming for someone to call the police and the EMT, he shoved me and grabbed me and then he ran. And then I wasn’t sure if he was gone, but I quickly, limping, wheeled my baby into a yard next to me, into the gate.”

Prior to her CNN appearance, West spoke with the Associated Press, on March 23, giving a statement which nearly mirrors the one above. West tells the AP that “two boys” approached her while she was out walking with her baby. The boys demand money, which she tells them she doesn’t have. One of them shoots the gun at the ground, then shoots her the first, time, grazing her ear. The same boy then shoots her in the leg before shooting the baby in the face. One small discrepancy between these two statements, however, is that in her statements to the AP she says one of the boys tried to grab her purse and then he shoved her, before shooting her in the ear. During the AP interview West shows her ear to the camera, although if there is an injury, it does not appear to be visible in the video.

In another on-camera interview just hours after the shooting, when West invited reporters from Fox News 30 (WAWS Jacksonville) into her home, her statement varies again. In this interview she says “I put my arms over my baby and he shoves me and then he shot my baby right in the head.”

In another statement made to a WTLV reporter, West reportedly said that the killer “fired the first shot into the ground, then shot her in the left ear and upper left leg. The gunman then walked around the stroller and shot her child once in the face.” This discription of events was also given to reporters at Yahoo News. There is no mention of her trying to sheild the baby with her arms, in fact this discription suggests that in order to shoot the baby, the killer had to walk around the stroller, away from where West was standing, in order to shoot the child.

Sherry West also told reporters that the tests for gun shot residue which the police performed immediately following the killing came back negative. On March 25, CNN reported:

“Immediately after the shooting, detectives searched her home for a gun and conducted gun residue tests on both her and the baby’s father, West said, adding that the tests were negative and the search did not turn up a gun. Citing the ongoing investigation, police spokesman Todd Rhodes declined to comment when asked about the search and those tests.

West also said she relinquished a jacket she was wearing at the time of the shooting to a detective. She told police she was grabbed or shoved briefly by the suspected shooter, and they hope to lift a fingerprint off the jacket, she said.”

Early in July defense attorneys for the two accused teens were able to access the investigation file on the Baby Santiago case. It was discovered that the hands of both Sherry West and the baby’s father, Luis Santiago tested positive for gunshot powder residue. Luis Santiago told police he was shopping at Walmart when the child was killed, however later evidence indicates that Santiago was not at Walmart at the time of little Antonio’s death.

West recently stated that the gun shot residue on her hands must have come from a struggle with the killers. In none of the statements made prior to the discovery of gun shot residue on her hands, does West ever claim to have struggled with the killers after the gun was fired. Since the evidence has been released to the public, however, she appears to be attempting to change her story again. Some media outlets have reported that West is now saying that she tried to get the gun away from the killers.

Police have stated that the parents of Baby Santiago have never been suspects in the shooting death of baby Santiago. One question is why not? Most police investigations of infant and child homicides do focus on the parents first.

According to a 2010 CNN News report there are about 550 homicides of small children in the U.S. every year, of which at least 350 are committed by a parent. The article states:

“Cheryl Meyer, a psychologist at Wright State University in Ohio and co-author of several books on the subject, said it’s probable that a mother kills a child somewhere in the U.S. once every three days.”

Meyers also went on to say that:

 “women who kill with purpose tend to be devoted mothers in their 30s who have suffered some kind of loss, and who murder all of their children at once by a violent means such as a knife or a gun.”

It is a well-known fact that Sherry West had a son, Shaun West, who was killed in a stabbing incident in 2008.

Additionally, Nadine Kaslow, psychologist at Emory University, also told CNN that:

“The vast majority of mothers who kill their children have a form of diagnosable mental illness, but most are not receiving appropriate treatment for it at the time of the murders. A high number of them are economically underprivileged, and they are commonly single, unemployed parents. They may have been the victims of trauma or abuse.”

Sherry West’s daughter, Ashley Glassey told police in March that she had concerns that her mother might have killed her brother. Glassey stated that her mother has been diagnosed as bi-polar with schizophrenic tendencies. What’s more, she told police that her mother also changed her story when speaking to her the night Antonio was killed, saying she was shot first, then saying the baby was shot first. Police had not followed up with Glassey or the media, as of the date of publication.

Something else strikes me odd as the Baby Santiago case. There are hundreds of accounts of the shooting from March 21, 2013, the day that it occurred. Yet, there are no descriptions of the alleged killers to be found, even from the days when police were supposedly engaging in a man hunt for two killers on the loose. There is no information from before the arrests regarding the height or weight of the suspects, the clothing they were wearing, any identifying marks, and there is no composite sketch… Details released by police and media reports from those who interviewed Sherry West are strangely absent of almost all identifying characteristics. What we do know about who police were supposed to be looking for may come as a surprise. Several media outlets reported that in the hours immediately after the shooting, West stated she believed the killers were between 10 and 15 years old and that she thought the younger suspect could be as young as 5 years old. From a Yahoo News Report on March 22:

“Police were combing school records and canvassing neighborhoods searching for the pair. While police have said the two boys were between the ages of 10 and 15, the mother says she believes the younger boy was as young as 5 years old.”

No-one other than Sherry West witnessed the shooting, therefore this should have been the only description police had to follow up on. And yet police appear to have located two suspects who do not match the mother’s description at all. The police “investigation” involved searching local school attendance records to see who was not there on the day Antonio Santiago was killed…

Baby Santiago was killed on March 21. On March 25, Sherry West was packing up her bags and headed out of town. CNN reported that she said she was going “a thousand miles away.” What’s more, she refused to have the bullet removed from her leg, even though it surely could be used as evidence to help convict her child’s killers. It could if it was fired from the same gun that killed Antonio Santiago and if that gun was the same one which police say was tossed into the river by the two accused teens. As long as the bullet remains lodged in her leg, how can the police or anyone else know for sure where it came from?