Mental Illness: Mother Found Not Criminally Responsible for 3-Year-old Son's Death - Southern Maryland Headline News

Mental Illness: Mother Found Not Criminally Responsible for 3-Year-old Son's Death

LA PLATA, Md. (Feb. 22, 2016)—Today in Charles County Circuit Court, Romechia Marie Simms entered a guilty plea to Involuntary Manslaughter for the May 22, 2015 death of her 3-year-old son Ji'Aire Lee. On that date, police found Simms in a park in La Plata pushing her dead son in a swing. Simms was reportedly in the park for 2 days and her son had been dead for some hours prior to their discovery. An autopsy showed that Ji'Aire died from hypothermia and dehydration.

After accepting Simms's plea, Judge H. James West then went on to determine that Simms was Not Criminally Responsible for her son's death. This decision was based on the expert opinion of three doctors—one appointed by the Court—all of whom concluded Simms suffered from a mental disorder at the time of the crime which prevented her from appreciating the criminality of her behavior and conforming her conduct to the requirements of the law. The Court also determined, again based on the unanimous opinion of the three experts, that Simms, at this time, is not a danger to herself or to others.

By virtue of the Not Criminally Responsible verdict, Simms ordinarily would have been committed to the health department for placement in a mental health institution. But due to the finding of not being dangerous and the agreement of the parties, the Court was able to release Simms from that commitment under certain conditions. The Court did in fact decide to release her from the commitment and the Court issued an Order of Conditional Release which essentially imposed conditions on Simms regarding her treatment and monitoring by the Health Department. Simms, who was not in custody because she had posted bond months ago, was free to leave the Courthouse with the directive to abide by her conditions of release.

Tony Covington, the State's Attorney for Charles County, agreed with the conclusions of the experts. He indicated, while he might not like the expert conclusions, he had no evidence to controvert them. Mr. Covington also agreed that the Court made the appropriate findings and rulings given the law that applies to these types of cases.

Mr. Covington, however, did express his frustration over this tragic loss of life. Covington said, "Ji'Aire Lee should still be alive today. He is not here with us because his mother, who knew she had a mental illness, did not remain vigilant in her own mental health treatment. As a direct result of that she slipped back into the illness that eventually caused her to be unable to care for her child. And Ji'Aire died because of that neglect. While we can search for others that may have failed Ji'Aire, ultimately it boils down to Romechia's failure to maintain her mental health regimen. My heart goes out to this family, but I have to be honest about it: Ji'Aire Lee's death was preventable."

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