Father Could Get Death Penalty in Toddler's Death

Prosecutors have decided to seek the death penalty against a Manassas father charged with drowning his 15-month-old son last year.

Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert said Tuesday he obtained a capital murder indictment against Joaquin Shadow Rams, 40, who had already been facing generic murder charges in death of his son, Prince McLeod Rams.

The case is eligible for the death penalty under Virginia law because the victim was under the age of 14.

Court records indicate that Rams had taken out life insurance policies on his son totaling more than $500,000.

Prince's death has also prompted authorities to take a renewed look at the deaths of two other people close to Rams - the 2003 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, Shawn Mason, and the 2008 death of his mother, Alma Collins, which police initially said was a suicide.

Ebert declined to comment on the investigation of the other two deaths.

Ebert said he opted to pursue capital charges against Rams because the law allows for it and ``I felt it's an option the jury ought to have.''

Ebert has sent more people to death row that any other Virginia prosecutor.

Hera McLeod, who is Prince's mother and Rams' ex-fiancee, said Tuesday that she supports the decision to pursue capital charges. More than anything, she said, she takes the new indictment as a sign that prosecutors are prepared to put on a strong case and obtain a conviction, no matter what the ultimate punishment turns out to be.

"I want him to have to pay for what he did to my son,'' she said.

Prince died in October, on just his fourth unsupervised visit with Rams. Hera McLeod fought unsuccessfully to prevent unsupervised visits, warning a judge that Prince would be in danger.

The medical examiner found that Prince died from drowning. Rams told authorities he merely gave his son a cold bath in an attempt to arrest a fever-induced seizure.

Rams' lawyer, Timothy Olmstead, did not return a call seeking comment.


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