Stella Dimoko Father Convicted Of Capital Murder In Death Of 15-Month-Old Son


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Friday, April 14, 2017

Father Convicted Of Capital Murder In Death Of 15-Month-Old Son

Joaquin S. Rams, accused of killing his 15-month-old son in 2012 to collect more than $500,000 in life insurance benefits on the boy, was found guilty of capital murder in Virginia's Prince William County on Thursday by the judge who heard the case. 

Rams, 44, now faces a mandatory life sentence without parole.

Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows presided over the 12-day trial, after both sides waived a jury, and issued a ruling from the bench. Bellows said prosecutors proved that Prince McLeod Rams died in a criminal manner.

Rams spent the last four years awaiting trial, and had claimed since before his arrest in January 2013 that he did not kill his son. But he did not testify at his trial and instead allowed his lawyers to peck away at the prosecution’s theory that he drowned the toddler in his Manassas, Va., home on Oct. 20, 2012.

After an assistant medical examiner ruled that Prince was drowned, Rams was charged with murder, later upgraded to capital murder. But when the defense questioned the autopsy, and prosecutors sought expert reviews of the case, one of the experts — the chief medical examiner of Kentucky — also said she did not think Prince drowned. The boy had suffered six febrile, or fever-induced, seizures in the weeks before he died, and the incident had the indicators of sudden unexplained death in children, according to Kentucky’s Tracey S. Corey. She became a defense witness at the trial.

Then in 2014, the chief medical examiner of Virginia, William T. Gormley, issued a new autopsy report, changing the cause of death from drowning to “undetermined.” Gormley wrote that the circumstances were suspicious, but like Corey he said he could not rule out a death by natural causes. He also became a defense witness, and along with Corey and two other doctors at trial he challenged Virginia assistant medical examiner Constance DiAngelo’s conclusion that fluid in Prince’s body was indicative of drowning. Prince had been on life support for more than a day after falling unconscious in his father’s home, which doctors said often creates excess fluid.

Prince William prosecutors Paul B. Ebert and James A. Willett stuck with DiAngelo, and Willett said in his opening statement that evidence would show Prince had been drowned. In addition to DiAngelo, prosecutors called jailhouse informant Jamal Thompson to the stand. He testified that Rams confessed to him that he’d drowned his son, though the defense said his credibility was severely damaged by refusing to acknowledge his own documented misconduct in the jail, including complaints against him by Rams.

Then, when Gormley was on the stand for the defense, Willett asked him if it would be possible for a large man like Rams to suffocate a small boy like Prince and not leave any marks. Gormley said it was.

Suffocation became a new theme in the trial, and Bellows picked up on it. The former federal prosecutor delved into an 800-page book of exhibits, entered as evidence all at once on the first day of trial, and the taped 911 call to question Rams’ version of events. Documents show Rams told paramedics and police, though none testified to it at trial, that he had seen Prince having a seizure in his crib, just a few feet away from his then-13-year-old son, Joaquin “Shadow” Rams Jr. He rushed in and carried the toddler to a bathtub to splash cold water on him because he was “really hot.”

But paramedics felt Prince was cold to the touch, and he had no heartbeat. He was taken to Prince William Medical Center, where his temperature was recorded at 91.2 degrees, 24 minutes after the 911 call began. His heartbeat wasn’t restored until 40 minutes after the call.

Bellows probed various witnesses over Rams’ account, examining three of them for more than a half-hour after the lawyers had finished. He wanted to know if a child could go from “really hot” to 91.2 degrees in a manner of minutes — several defense experts said yes, prosecution experts said no — and whether someone could be making the motions of a seizure while also in cardiac arrest. Both prosecution and defense experts said no.

The three people in the house with Rams — his son Shadow and housemates Roger and Sue Jestice — said they only saw and heard Rams splash water on the boy briefly, not place him under water. But there was a period of time when Rams was alone with the boy, before Rams rushing him to the tub, which Willett said gave Rams “the opportunity” to kill Prince.

Willett also noted that Rams began seeking insurance on the boy in 2011, after the $162,000 in insurance benefits he was receiving from the 2008 death of his own mother had been spent. He purchased three policies totaling $524,000 in fall 2011, shortly after a custody battle was launched over Prince with the boy’s mother, Hera McLeod. He also purchased policies on himself and Shadow, and an insurance salesman testified that the idea to buy policies on the boys as a college savings vehicle was his idea, not Rams’.

Willett said Rams was in financial distress in 2012, with his own house in Bristow, Va., in foreclosure — he and Shadow were living rent-free with the Jestices — and a $50,000 line of credit exhausted and a private school tuition bill for Shadow unpaid. He appeared to have no job and hadn’t filed a tax return in years. McLeod said she paid the mortgage and the bills for the couple while they lived together in Rams’ house.

The defense showed that Rams had a hidden bank account that had $277,000 in deposits in the three years before his arrest, mostly from a business partner in California, and that he was working at home to develop a gaming website. They acknowledged his debts, and willingness to deceive McLeod and the Jestices about his finances, but said that did not make him a murderer.

From the Washington post.


  1. This is sad, poor baby, may his soul rest in peace

  2. He did it to of set his debt? Sad

  3. Sad!! Very very sad.

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  4. Reading this reminds me of d novel - TheInnocent Man. There's a possibility that he did not kill his son. The other housemates would ve heard d boy screaming while getting drowned na

    1. John Grisham... You have a point. Its possible he didn't. Only God knows


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