Mom found not criminally responsible for son's death in playground swing
WALDORF, Md. - A mother who was found pushing her 3-year-old son's body in a swing at a Maryland playground has been found not criminally responsible for the boy's death.
Romechia Simms appeared in court on Monday, and she pleaded guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Her son, Ji'Aire Lee, died May 22, 2015, and Simms was found pushing his body in a swing at a park in LaPlata, Md.
Authorities said Simms went to the park two days earlier, on May 20, and her son had been dead for several hours before they were found two days later. An autopsy showed the boy died from hypothermia and dehydration. He was not wearing shoes or a jacket.
Judge H. James West accepted Simms' plea, but then went on to determine that she was not criminally responsible for her son's death -- basing his decision on the expert opinions of three different doctors, who had all concluded that Simms suffered from a mental disorder -- schizophrenia -- which prevented her from understanding what she was doing at the time of the crime.
After issuing his ruling in the case on Monday, the judge also determined that Simms is not a danger to herself or to others, and she was released on the condition that she maintains her health treatments. If she doesn't, Simms will be placed into a hospital facility or a mental health institute, the state's attorney said.
Tasha Simms, the child's grandmother, told FOX 5 getting consistent help for her daughter was difficult to come by. She said mental health assistance was difficult to retain for her daughter and her case was essentially falling through the cracks.
Prosecutors in her daughter's court case claim Romechia did not remain vigilant in her own mental health treatment and Ji'Aire's death was preventable. But a judge ruled in Romechia's favor taking into account her history of mental illness.
Tasha Simms is trying to move forward focusing on what she can do in light of Ji'Aire's death.
"He is not going to be forgotten," she said. "That is my goal in life. I want to make sure this doesn't happen to another family, to another child, to another one who is suffering in the darkness alone through a mental Illness."
Tasha is now taking her fight to the Maryland General Assembly. She is pushing what she calls Ji'Aire's Law." It is currently up for discussion in a house committee. It would address what is lacking in the Maryland mental health system.
"Resources that may be needed, funding that may be provided, ways to prevent this type of thing from happening again," said Romechia's mother.
She wants people to understand mental illness is a disease of the brain and is very serious even though it is not something you can see like other physical ailments.
Tasha is also trying to set up a charity in Ji'Aire's name called the Simms-Lee fund. She has started a GoFundMe hoping to raise money for the certification she needs for it.
If she had been convicted, Romechia Simms could have faced up to 45 years in prison.