The Maryland mother found pushing her dead preschooler on a swing in May has been released from jail after her family posted bail.
Romechia Simms, 25, was freed Tuesday after spending more than two months in custody at the Charles County Detention Center, her mother and her public defender said Wednesday. She is awaiting trial on manslaughter and child abuse charges after she was found pushing her dead 3-year-old, Ji’Aire Lee, in a La Plata, Md., park.
Ji’Aire died of hypothermia and dehydration after Simms pushed him on the swing for 40 hours, even as it rained, authorities said. The case generated headlines around the world.
Vontasha Simms, Romechia’s mother, said her daughter has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and was not getting mental health treatment in jail.
In an interview last week before her release, Romechia Simms said that she needed therapy “to deal with my mental illness, to deal with my grief. I try to get sleep. I try to exercise. I try to go to church.”
She said that she has been devastated by Ji’Aire’s death: “I miss my son every day. I’m still grieving. I think about him all the time. I dream about him all the time.”
Ji’Aire, nicknamed “Sumo” for his chubby cheeks, had been dead for two days when Simms was found May 22 pushing him in Wills Memorial Park in La Plata. His body was so stiff that police cut down the swing to get his body out.
Romechia Simms was taken to a nearby mental health facility but was able to attend her son’s funeral. In September, she was indicted on charges of manslaughter and first-degree child abuse.
She has been held since Sept. 14, initially on $150,000 bond, which was later lowered to $60,000.
Before Ji’Aire’s death, Simms had been hospitalized twice after breakdowns. The boy’s father, James “Donnell” Lee, had sought custody in D.C. Superior Court, raising concerns about his former partner’s mental stability. But at a May 11 court hearing, he agreed to share custody with Simms, caring for Ji’Aire only on weekends.
At the time, Vontasha Simms was living with her daughter and Ji’Aire in a motel in La Plata.
Now, Vontasha Simms said, she is on more stable financial ground. She has just rented a house in Waldorf, Md., she said.
When a judge lowered Romechia Simms’s bond in October, it made it easier for her mother to save enough money to get her out of jail.
Vontasha Simms said that her daughter will be able to live with her and get treatment. She will undergo a court-ordered psychological evaluation before her Jan. 25 trial date.
Since her daughter’s indictment, Vontasha Simms has been pushing for legislation that she has dubbed Ji’Aire’s Law, which would allow “a parent, guardian, or close family relative or friend to take a supervisory role in the care and well-being of an adult suffering from a mental illness.”
She testified about it before the Board of Charles County Commissioners, which is considering including it in its legislative wish list for the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly.
Before Ji’Aire died, Vontasha Simms said, there were several situations in which she tried to get help for her daughter, including an incident in February when Romechia Simms walked barefoot down a street holding her son’s hand.
“I explained she was in a crisis,” Vontasha Simms said she told authorities. “They said she looked competent.”
If Romechia Simms is convicted of manslaughter and child abuse, she could face up to 45 years in prison.
Her mother insisted that she is not guilty of a crime. “She didn’t do anything to intentionally harm him,” she said.
Romechia Simms was struggling to hold on to reality as she pushed Ji’Aire in the swing, her mother said.
“I think she was hearing voices in the park,” her mother said. “She was thinking it wasn’t safe for her to leave. I don’t think she could distinguish between day and night. Time stopped for her sometime in that park.”