WE RECENTLY told the story of a baby who died after being left, over the objections of his mother, in the unsupervised care of his father. Much was unknown about the Oct. 21 death of 15½-month-old Prince McLeod Rams, but disturbing details about the father’s background raised questions about the decision of a Montgomery County judge to grant unsupervised access. We also found reason to question the thoroughness of investigations by authorities in Prince William County into the earlier deaths of two other people connected to the father, Joaquin S. Rams.
Much remains unknown. But since our Nov. 27 editorial, Manassas child protective services officials have issued a finding of medical neglect in the child’s death and removed an older child from Mr. Rams’s care. As a criminal investigation continues, the finding highlights the need for authorities to examine their own actions in this case.
Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert is coordinating what has been characterized as “active and ongoing” criminal investigations into Prince’s death, the 2008 suicide of the father’s mother and the 2003 murder of the father’s ex-girlfriend, in which police have named him a suspect; Mr. Rams has said he is innocent. Mr. Ebert told us that final test results, still pending, will help the state medical examiner determine the cause of Prince’s death.
A separate investigation was conducted by the Manassas Department of Family Services. Under requirements that an inquiry be completed within 60 days, it informed Prince’s mother, Hera McLeod, in a Dec. 19 letter of a Level 1 civil finding (the most serious) of medical neglect in the case. An attorney for Prince’s father confirmed in an e-mail to us that, as a result, Mr. Rams’s older son was taken into custody by the department. “Mr. Rams is anxious to have a hearing on all the evidence in this case and . . . is confident that the court will find in his favor and return his son as soon as possible,” according to lawyer Timothy Olmstead.
The attorney declined to discuss the circumstances of Prince’s death. Mr. Rams told paramedics, according to records, that Prince had a seizure while sleeping and that he placed the baby in an ice-cold bath to cool him and, when he remained unresponsive, started CPR. Paramedics noted dried blood inside the baby’s nose and a small bruise of unknown origin and age on his forehead.
Ms. McLeod is understandably anxious about the investigation and, given how her foreboding was brushed aside in court, distrustful of authorities. She wonders why it was the private investigator she hired as part of her custody battle with Mr. Rams who discovered apparent discrepancies in the investigation of the 2008 suicide of Mr. Rams’s mother, Alma Collins. That information has prompted Mr. Ebert’s office to take another look at the death, sending investigators to Florida to interview the woman’s relatives and collect new evidence. Ms. McLeod also is upset that Virginia authorities, ignoring her pleas for assistance, couldn’t figure out a way to communicate that information to the Montgomery court deciding the issue of access. She is concerned that authorities have advised her to take precautions for her safety but have not sought to revoke Mr. Rams’s permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Authorities need to conclude this investigation in a way that provides answers about what happened and whether a tragic death could have been prevented.