Father of 3-Year-Old Found Dead in Park Swing Wanted Sole Custody | NBC4 Washington

Father of 3-Year-Old Found Dead in Park Swing Wanted Sole Custody



    A father's 3-year-old son was found dead at a playground. The toddler was with his mother. The father fought for sole custody of his child and wonders if his son would have been better protected if he was in his care. News4's Derrick Ward has the story. (Published Monday, May 25, 2015)

    The father of a 3-year-old boy found dead in a Maryland park swing last week, just days after the father filed for sole custody, wonders if the legal system is to blame.

    James Lee said he went to court before his son Ji-Aire was found dead while being pushed in the swing by his mother. Lee was concerned the mother, Romechia Simms, was suffering from mental illness. He said he did not want to keep Ji-Aire’s mother out of his life forever; he just wanted her to get help. He believed he was the better parent at the time. A judge disagreed.

    “He deemed her, at that moment, a fit parent,” Lee said. “I'm not saying she isn't, but in this situation, he just didn't pay attention to the signs."

    Soon after, Simms took Ji-Aire to a motel in Waldorf, near where her mother lives. Two days before Ji-Aire was found dead, Simms called Lee, telling him he needed to pick her and their son up immediately. But by the time he was done with work, Simms stopped answering Lee’s calls. On Friday, Simms’ mother called Lee, telling him his son was dead.

    “It came out of nowhere for me,” Lee said.

    On Monday, an autopsy for Ji-Aire was completed, but no cause of death was determined. Police are working to establish a timeline of the days before Ji-Aire’s death, Charles County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Diane Richardson said. They believe Simms may have pushed Ji-Aire in the La Plata park swing for hours before they were discovered.

    Lee thinks things could’ve turned out differently had the court granted him sole custody. But the system is designed to benefit mothers, not the fitter parent, he said.

    “Women get slapped on the wrist,” he said. “Men get grinded into dog meat.”

    Simms has been hospitalized since Friday. Ji-Aire’s death remains under investigation.