Man sen­tenced to life in prison

Mur­dered son for in­sur­ance money

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY MATTHEW BARAKAT

A Manas­sas man con­victed of mur­der­ing his 15-month-old-son to col­lect on life in­sur­ance was sen­tenced Tues­day to life in prison with­out pa­role.

Joaquin Rams was con­victed ear­lier this year in the 2012 death of his son, Prince.

Rams had taken out more than $500,000 in life in­sur­ance on Prince in the months be­fore his death. The boy died dur­ing an un­su­per­vised visit or­dered by a Mary­land judge over the ob­jec­tions of Prince’s mother, who said she feared for her child’s safety. Prince died on just the fourth un­su­per­vised visit Rams had with his son.

Ob­tain­ing a con­vic­tion in Prince’s death was a chal­lenge for pros­e­cu­tors, and took sev­eral years of le­gal wran­gling. The med­i­cal ex­am­iner who con­ducted the au­topsy on Prince con­cluded that he drowned, but later the state’s chief med­i­cal ex­am­iner over­ruled that find­ing and changed the cause of death to un­de­ter­mined.

That opened the door for de­fense lawyers to ar­gue that Prince died of nat­u­ral causes, cit­ing a pat­tern of feverin­duced seizures that had been doc­u­mented dur­ing Prince’s short life.

The mur­der trial be­came in large part a bat­tle of med­i­cal ex­perts as to whether febrile seizures could be fa­tal.

Judge Randy Bel­lows, who con­victed Rams af­ter he waived his right to a jury trial, wrote a metic­u­lous 62-page opin­ion de­tail­ing why the de­fense ar­gu­ment that Prince died of nat­u­ral causes made no sense in light of the spe­cific cir­cum­stances of his death.

Rams, who main­tains his in­no­cence, filed a re­quest seek­ing to avoid at­tend­ing Tues­day’s sen­tenc­ing hearing.

But Judge Bel­lows or­dered him to at­tend, giv­ing Prince’s mother, Hera McLeod, and ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents the op­por­tu­nity to give vic­tim-im­pact state­ments in Rams’ pres­ence.

Ms. McLeod said she can’t help but think of Prince’s death: “I know it was painful. I know he was scared. I have to live with the fact that I was un­able to pro­tect him from this mon­ster.”

She then turned di­rectly to Rams, who looked away, twitched and sighed as Ms. McLeod called him “a pa­thetic ex­cuse for a hu­man.”

“I don’t for­give you.”

Rams re­mained silent when he was of­fered an op­por­tu­nity to speak at Tues­day’s hearing. Rams was con­victed of cap­i­tal mur­der, but pros­e­cu­tors agreed not to pur­sue a death penalty un­der an un­usual ex­change in which the de­fense waived its right to a jury trial.

While Vir­ginia law says a cap­i­tal­mur­der con­vic­tion re­quires a sen­tence of life with­out pa­role, Rams’ lawyer, Christo­pher Leibig, asked the judge to sus­pend part of that sen­tence and pro­vide some op­tion for Rams to be re­leased.

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