Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said a criminal investigation is underway. The probe, a spokesman for the Manassas police confirmed, is being coordinated with an investigation into the 2003 murder of the father’s ex-girlfriend, with whom he had a child, and apparently new questioning about the 2008 death, ruled a suicide, of his mother. The father, Joaquin S. Rams, did not return calls in recent days seeking comment.
It’s not known yet whether Prince’s death could have been prevented, but the case should cause soul-searching by officials in Montgomery County family court who lifted supervision of the toddler’s visits and by Prince William law enforcement agencies who investigated earlier incidents involving the father. “A faulty and callous legal system,” Prince’s grandfather wrote the judge, sent the boy to a death that was “at best . . . neglect. At worst . . . murder.”
Whether or not the grandfather’s suspicions prove to be founded, there is an all-too-typical script to family court battles: Distraught mothers often are dismissed, and seemingly competent fathers overvalued, by courts understandably reluctant to deny parents access to their children. Women who warn of danger are seen as vengeful or “crying wolf.” Traumatized by abuse, many of them don’t make ideal witnesses. Fathers pleading to be a part of their children’s lives are welcomed as a refreshing change from the deadbeat dads courts are accustomed to.
These stories play out in courts that are often seen as undesirable by the people who work there. “I’m in Family Law because I have to be. It’s a required 18-month rotation. I don’t like it. And if I could choose not to do it, I would not do it,” said Circuit Court Judge Michael J. Algeo, who oversaw the custody battle over Prince, on March 14.
Ms. McLeod, an intelligence analyst for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, met Mr. Rams through an online matchmaking service in February 2010. She became pregnant in October, and the couple became engaged in December and she moved in with him. On July 17, 2011, two weeks after Prince’s birth, Ms. McLeod’s sister, then 19, said Mr. Rams forced her to have sex. He countered it was consensual. Ms. McLeod moved out, hired an investigator and sought custody of their newborn.