Cahokia man gets life in prison for Steak 'n Shake murders

Associated PressApril 25, 2013 

An Illinois man will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole - just like his brother - for killing two workers at a suburban St. Louis Steak 'n Shake restaurant.

Anthony Akins pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder in the killings of waitress Tammy Cantrell and cook Mark Gerstner during a 2008 robbery. The plea deal was far less favorable than one he backed out of earlier because he decided against testifying against his brother, Oundr'e Akins.

Oundr'e Akins was convicted in March, and also was sentenced to life without parole. Both brothers are 24 and from Cahokia.

The earlier deal for Anthony Akins would have reduced the charge to second-degree murder, offering at least a chance for parole. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to take the death penalty possibility off the table.

At the hearing, relatives held pictures of Gerstner's daughter, now 8. She still makes cards and pictures for him on Father's Day.

Authorities said the brothers broke into a south St. Louis County Steak 'n Shake and killed the workers in a robbery that netted them $173. Oundr'e Akins was the gunman. Police said he confronted Cantrell, 44, at the front of the store and shot her seven times. Gerstner, 24, was taken to a back freezer and shot in the back of the head.

Both men previously worked at the restaurant as cooks. Anthony Akins was fired, and Oundr'e Akins quit after being passed over for a promotion.

Authorities said the men planned the robbery in advance, choosing a day when their uncle who also worked there had the day off.

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