Joaquin Shadow Rams is a 40-year-old native of New York City who has lived in the Manassas City area since at least the late 1990s, when he began dating Shawn Mason. He was born John Anthony Ramirez, but he was calling himself Joaquin Rams when he met Mason, her mother said. In September 1999, the unmarried couple had a son, whom they also named Joaquin Shadow Rams.
Mason and the elder Rams had a tumultuous relationship, by all accounts, and did not live together when Joaquin Rams took over the raising of his son. Meanwhile, Mason purchased a $1 million life insurance policy and named her son as the beneficiary. In April 2002, Joaquin Rams formally filed in Prince William County Circuit Court for his name change, which was granted. Investigators believe this was an attempt by Rams to claim the $1 million death benefit for himself.
In September 2002, Shawn Mason filed papers to change her son’s name to Joaquin Mason. But no action was taken on the case.
Six months later, on March 19, 2003, Shawn Mason was shot to death in her apartment on Tarra Lane in Manassas City.
Joaquin Rams discovered Mason’s body, police said. As the ex-boyfriend and father of her child, he naturally became a prime suspect. But Manassas City police said in 2004 he was cooperative with them and they could not tie him to the homicide. Rams wrote on his online blog in January of this year that he did not kill her and has “numerous witnesses and video footage” proving his innocence. Police say the case is still open, and a Manassas detective recently traveled to Florida seeking more information. The $1 million life insurance payout was placed in a trust fund for “Junior,” as the younger Rams is known, payable when he turns 18.
The single father and son lived together in Manassas City. Rams’s lawyers said that the boy is an excellent student, earned an academic scholarship to a private school and is also a top-flight golfer. The seemingly competent parenting by Joaquin Rams would later figure in the decision to allow him visitation with Prince.
In November 2008, Joaquin Rams’s mother, Alma Collins, apparently committed suicide by asphyxiation at her home on Kinloss Mews in Bristow. Prince William police said she left a suicide note, but they declined to discuss its specifics. The police consider the case a suicide, Prince William Sgt. Kim Chinn said. Collins’s family members have told the media they were suspicious of the suicide finding, but Rams wrote on his blog that his mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and left a two-page note “clearly indicating why she chose to end her life as not to be ‘a burden’ to her son.”
Collins was a postal worker, and Rams collected a $240,000 death benefit which he saved and used for living expenses, according to Hera A. McLeod of Gaithersburg, with whom Rams connected in 2010 through an online dating service.
Rams also administers a monthly Social Security benefit that his teen son receives for the death of Shawn Mason. Court records show he had unrealized dreams of becoming a music producer, and that he dabbled in a Web site that marketed female models.
Rams and McLeod seemed an unlikely pair: Rams the adult Web site producer; McLeod the intelligence analyst for Booz Allen. McLeod has written that she saw Rams as a “dirty dog” that she could tame. By early 2011 she was pregnant.
The two got engaged and moved in together in Bristow, seemingly happy. On Father’s Day in June 2011, McLeod wrote a loving note to “my life partner,” saying, “I know I just gave you a gushy card a week ago, but I thought Father’s Day warranted another…A day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t wanted to be by your side…I love that you are a great father.”
Prince Elias McLeod Rams was born on July 1, 2011. On July 17, Joaquin Rams slept with McLeod’s 19-year-old sister in the basement of his home after the two attended a Lil Wayne concert, court records show. Hera McLeod promptly moved out, taking Prince with her.
Both Rams and McLeod then filed motions seeking permanent custody of Prince. In March 2012, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Michael J. Algeo awarded sole custody of Prince to McLeod, saying that Rams didn’t appear to have a job. But he allowed Rams to have a weekly visit with his son, supervised by a retired Montgomery County police officer, Diane Tillery. He ordered Rams to undergo a psychological evaluation, and for both sides to return later to discuss allowing Rams unsupervised visits.
As the custody battle continued, Hera McLeod turned to the Internet. In June 2012, she launched a blog called “Cappuccino Queen,” in which she detailed her view of the custody case. She gave Rams the alias of “Luc,” short for Lucifer, and called Prince “baby boy.” McLeod also began contributing blog posts to a site called “Lovefraud.com,” a website that teaches people to recognize and recover from abusive relationships, and then started a Facebook page which now has more than 1,200 followers.
Using her pen name of Cappuccino Queen, McLeod engaged in detailed conversations about the case, and Prince’s troubling health, in the comments sections with other anonymous posters on the Lovefraud site.
Also in June 2012, McLeod took Prince to a pediatrician and reported that he had had a seizure the previous night, medical records supplied by defense lawyers show.
McLeod has said in interviews, and testified in court last week, that Prince never had a seizure until his second unsupervised visit with Rams last September. She suggested in an interview that perhaps Rams had attempted to choke their son and it caused his first seizure.
But Prince’s doctors diagnosed the June episode as “febrile convulsions,” the records show, and note that McLeod was given names of neurologists, guidance in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and instructions to see a neurologist if another seizure occurred.
In an interview, McLeod denied that the June incident was a seizure. She said the boy had suffered “night terrors.”
Simple febrile seizures occur in children younger than 5, typically only occur once, and are not believed to be dangerous or an indicator of epilepsy. McLeod said she was told this by doctors. And, she noted, “febrile seizures do not cause drowning.”
In August, after hearing testimony from Tillery and psychologist Margaret Wong, Judge Algeo in Montgomery County granted Rams unsupervised visits with Prince, for eight hours at a time on alternate weekends. McLeod was outraged and warned that this could end badly because of Rams’s history.