A Manassas man accused of killing his 151 / 2-month-old son has been indicted by a Prince William County grand jury on a charge of capital murder, meaning he could face the death penalty.
Joaquin S. Rams, 41, who police say took out more than $500,000 worth of life insurance on his son before the boy’s October death, qualified for the capital murder charge because of his alleged involvement in the “willful, deliberate and premeditated killing” of someone younger than 14, according to Virginia law.
Prince Rams was the subject of a custody dispute and died during a court-ordered visit with his father. Authorities have alleged that Joaquin Rams drowned his son. Rams’s attorney has said the boy was ill and his father rushed him to the bath and splashed water on him in an effort to alleviate a fever-induced seizure.
The indictment, handed up Monday, was kept under seal until Tuesday.
Rams had been indicted on a first-degree murder charge in Prince’s death and was awaiting trial. It is unusual for a defendant to be indicted twice for the same crime in a span of a few months.
Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said in an interview that new evidence had been heard by the grand jury that warranted elevating the charge, but he declined to elaborate.
“This case and others have been under investigation. . . . There’s other evidence that has been considered,” Ebert said.
Prince had been the subject of a custody dispute between Rams and Hera McLeod, the boy’s mother and Rams’s onetime fiancee. Prince was visiting Rams’s Manassas home in October when a 911 call was placed. The boy arrived at Prince William Hospital with injuries to his face and body, and he was naked, wet and cold, according to court testimony and a hospital report.
Prince had a history of febrile seizures, which are brought on by fevers, and Rams told investigators that the boy was making “raspy noises,” so he took him to the bathroom and splashed cold water on him, according to court papers. Timothy Olmstead, Rams’s attorney, said at a recent court hearing that the child’s death “was likely an accident, if anything else.”
Olmstead, a former Prince William prosecutor, said the capital defender’s office will most likely be appointed to handle the case.
McLeod said in an interview that she supports the decision prosecutors deem appropriate.
“There are going to be a lot of people against the death penalty, but people can’t make judgments,” she said. “Wait until someone kills your child and then see how you feel.”
Monday was Prince’s birthday, McLeod said, and she has created a video in his honor showing the curly-haired boy smiling and laughing as McLeod’s sister sings. She said that the fact the grand jury had also met Monday was “poetic justice.”