A forensic psychologist appointed by the court in the trial of Romechia Simms, a 25-year-old woman from Maryland who was found pushing her dead son in a playground swing has declared that Simms is not criminally responsible for the death of her child because she suffers from schizophrenia.
As The Washington Post reports, Simms was charged with first-degree abuse, manslaughter, child neglect, and a slew of other charges associated with the death of her 3-year-son, Ji’Aire Lee, last May. The medical examiner’s report showed that the boy was alive when he arrived at the Wills Memorial Park in LaPlata, Maryland. But he later died from dehydration and hyperthermia after spending 2 days in the cold without wearing a jacket, shoes, or ingesting anything.
When police were called to the scene by a concerned resident, Simms told officers the boy was sick and having complications with breathing. The boy’s head was tilted backwards with a lax mouth hanging open. His legs and arms were stiff. The swing had to be taken down for his body to be removed. His death was ruled as a homicide.
At Simms’ trial, psychologist Teresa Grant testified that Simms was so far advanced in her mental illness that she could not comprehend that her actions were illegal.
“Simms’s mental disorder caused her to ‘lack substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of her conduct or to conform her behavior to meet the requirements of the law.’ “
As of this writing, it is unclear where this new development takes the case. Finding Simms not criminally responsible positions her as not guilty by reason of insanity. Most defendants in such cases end up with mental health treatment instead of a lengthy prison term. However, the judge may choose to reject the psychological observations and proceed with the case. Simms faces as much as 45 years if found guilty.
Vontasha Simms, Romechia’s mother, said she believes her daughter was charged simply because prosecutors needed to make somebody pay for the young boy’s death.
“This is uncaring and unfair. I don’t understand how you’re going to charge someone who is mentally incompetent. My daughter suffers from depression and bipolar disorder. They simply had to do something because they were under a lot of public pressure.”
Simms graduated from high school in 2008. She went to Bowie State University for two years, majoring in English. But she dropped out when she got pregnant. Simms told Grant that she started showing mental health symptoms in late 2014. She was imagining people trying to kill her and seeing visions. In February, 2015, she called police and lodged a report that some persons were trying to murder her. According to her statement, when police arrived, they laughed at her. Simms was taken to the Medstar Southern Maryland Hospital Center by her mother for evaluation, later discharged and told to find a local psychiatrist.
Judge says Romechia Simms is not criminally responsible in the death of 3yo Ji’Aire Lee. @wusa9 pic.twitter.com/RG3Wo64W5X
— Stephanie Ramirez (@RamirezReports) February 22, 2016
In April, she was back at the counseling service of the Southern Maryland Hospital and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and prescribed some medication. She persistently told therapists that people were trying to kill her and confessed to smoking marijuana. A month later she was arrested at the Wills Memorial Park.
Simms was released on bail in December. She has been living with her teenage brother and mother, Vontasha, in Waldorf, Maryland. Vontasha hopes the prosecutors agree with the views of the forensic psychologist appointed by the court. She says her daughter’s life will never be the same again. She will probably continue with counseling for the rest of her life to deal with the terrible hurt of losing her son. According to her, making her daughter pay with a prison sentence would not salvage the tragedy that has occurred. Simms says her daughter has been singing gospel songs and spending time with close relatives. “If she is not incarcerated she will go back to school or find part-time work,” she said.
[Image via Shutterstock/slonme]