MANASSAS, Va. — Prosecutors say that 15-month-old Prince McLeod Rams died at the hands of a father who drowned him in an apparent attempt to collect on more than $500,000 in life-insurance policies. The father, Joaquin Shadow Rams, told authorities he merely gave his son a cold bath in an attempt to arrest a fever-induced seizure.
Regardless, the result was gruesome, according to court testimony Monday. One of the medics who attempted to revive the toddler testified that she and her colleagues found the boy naked, cold and clammy, no longer breathing and his lips turned blue. His body temperature was only 91 degrees when he arrived at the hospital in a futile attempt to revive him.
The evidence that emerged at Monday’s preliminary hearing was enough for Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Paul Gluchowski to find probable cause to certify murder charges against Rams to a grand jury. Rams will remain in custody while he awaits trial.
The investigation into Prince Rams’ death has prompted authorities to renew investigations into the deaths of two other deaths of people close to Joaquin Rams: the still-unsolved shooting of his ex-girlfriend Shawn K. Mason in 2003 and the 2008 death of Joaquin Rams’ mother, which was classified a suicide.
At Monday’s hearing, defense attorney Timothy Olmstead tried to raise doubts about the medical examiner’s ruling of a drowning. Assistant chief medical examiner Constance DiAngelo testified that she found 12 ounces of what appeared to be water in the toddler’s intestines, as well as in the boy’s lungs and sinuses — all indicative of a drowning.
There was testimony that Prince suffered seizures brought on by fevers, but DiAngelo said those seizures are not fatal, and that it did not make sense that Prince’s body temperature would have dropped so quickly to 91 degrees if he had been suffering a fever strong enough to induce a seizure.
The boy’s mother, Hera McLeod, testified that she provided detailed instructions on how Prince was to be cared for to keep his fever down, including the use of non-prescription fever reducers like children’s Advil and Tylenol. Never was there a suggestion that Prince should be submerged in a cold bath to reduce his fever, she said.
Olmstead said after the hearing that “we believe (Prince) was ill, and that was the contributing factor” in his death.
Prosecutors have previously said that Joaquin Rams had taken out unusually large life-insurance policies on his son, but that did not come up during Monday’s hearing. Outside court, Olmstead declined comment on why such large policies had been taken out.
Prince died in October, on just the fourth unsupervised visit that a Montgomery County, Md., judge had ordered over Hera McLeod’s objections. McLeod, an intelligence analyst who was a contestant on the CBS reality show “The Amazing Race,” had opposed unsupervised visitation, fearing for her son’s safety.
Among those who attended Monday’s hearing was Sheryl Mason, whose daughter Shawn Mason once dated Rams and whose 2003 shooting death remains unsolved. She said that she remains optimistic that charges will be filed in her daughter’s death, but for now is gratified that the case against Rams is progressing in Prince’s death.
“It’s time for him to pay for everything he’s done,” she said.
As the case goes forward, prosecutors have the option to seek the death penalty under Virginia law, which allows capital murder in cases when the victim is under age 14. After Monday’s hearing, McLeod said she would favor a capital case.
“I almost don’t really look at him as human,” she said.