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Published on February 26th, 2013 | by Daniel Perlman

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Defendant chooses possible death over testifying against brother in Steak ‘n Shake double murder

One of two brothers charged with a double murder at a south St. Louis County Steak ‘n Shake backed out of a plea deal Monday morning, choosing to face a possible death penalty rather than testify against his brother.

Anthony D. Akins, 24, pleaded guilty in June 2011 to two counts of second-degree murder – reduced from first-degree murder – for his role in the Nov. 10, 2008, armed robbery at the restaurant at 5828 Lindbergh Boulevard. Waitress Tammy L. Cantrell, 44, and cook Mark L. Gerstner, 24, were killed in the holdup.

Part of the deal was he had to testify against his brother, Oundr’e Akins, 23, the accused gunman. His sentencing was deferred until he did so.

On Monday, Anthony Akins reneged on that deal just before Oundr’e Akins’ trial started in St. Louis County Circuit Court. Prosecutors in turn rescinded the plea deal, which had offered six life terms, and announced plans to try Anthony Akins this summer on first-degree murder charges, seeking the death penalty.

Oundr’e T. Akins, 23, had also faced the death penalty, but it was dropped after he chose to go before a judge instead of a jury. He would still face life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

The brothers, from Cahokia, had worked at the restaurant as cooks. Anthony Akins was fired and Oundr’e Akins quit when he was passed over for a promotion.

The brothers started planning the robbery the month before, then found out who would be working Sunday nights — the only night their uncle, Ronald Akins, did not.

The restaurant was closed for insect extermination the Sunday night before the robbery, with employees inside through early Monday, preparing to reopen.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Dean Waldemer described how Oundr’e Akins confronted Cantrell at the front of the store, and without saying a word, shot her six times, including twice in the head. His revolver then empty, Oundr’e Akins took his brother’s semi-automatic pistol and brought Gerstner into a walk-in freezer.

Oundr’e Akins asked Gerstner if he knew who they were. When Gerstner answered in the affirmative, Oundr’e Akins shot him once in the back of the head, Waldemer said.

Anthony Akins then used Gerstner’s key card to take $173 from a front cash register, Waldemer said. It was at 3:38 a.m., according to a printed receipt.

Waldemer said the brothers’ vehicle was captured by nearby surveillance cameras 10 minutes earlier. A St. Louis County police officer saw the vehicle again at 3:40 a.m. and ran its plates, but the computer search showed no problems, Waldemer said.

When the murders were discovered later that morning — after a Hostess worker dropping off bread came across the scene — the officer reported the vehicle, including that it was registered to Anthony Akins. Police arrested Anthony Akins, then Oundr’e Akins the next morning.

Waldemer said Oundr’e Akins confessed to police, and before that, to a friend. Investigators also matched bullets from the scene to two guns found at Oundr’e Akins’ girlfriend’s house. She said he brought them over on Nov. 11, the day after the robbery.

Akins’ defense attorney declined to give an opening statement. The state was to continue presenting its case Tuesday.

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Source: St. Louis Post Dispatch “Defendant chooses possible death over testifying against brother in Steak ‘n Shake murders,” February 25, 2013.

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