Baltimore Sun

Day care roiled by sex abuse charges

Man shot by wife is accused of molesting children at her Baltimore County facility

- By Darcy Costello and Lilly Price

A man who was shot at a Washington, D.C., hotel by his wife, who accused him of molesting children at her Owings Mills day care center, now faces more than a dozen criminal charges.

James S. Weems Jr., 57, who retired from Baltimore Police in 2005, is accused of “sexually abusing at least three children while working at a day care facility,” Baltimore County Police said Tuesday.

According to the department, Weems is charged with three counts each of sexual abuse involving a minor, third-degree sexual offense, second-degree assault and fourth-degree sexual offense. He also faces a charge of displaying obscene material to a minor.

Police spokeswoma­n Joy Stewart said Tuesday afternoon that there may be additional charges filed in the case. Baltimore County authoritie­s issued an arrest warrant Monday for Weems and said he is hospitaliz­ed in police custody

in Washington, D.C., “pending extraditio­n.”

It wasn’t clear Tuesday whether Weems had obtained legal representa­tion.

A report provided by the Metropolit­an Police Department in Washington said the suspect was arrested at a hospital. The D.C. detective’s report was dated just after 8 p.m. Monday.

The allegation­s of sexual abuse surfaced publicly after Weems’ wife, Shanteari Weems, 50, of Randallsto­wn, was arrested Thursday in the shooting of her husband at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington.

She told police she shot him because she believed he’d molested children at her day care, Lil Kidz Kastle, according to charging documents. Court filings said police recovered a notebook with handwritte­n messages, including “I’m going to shoot” him “but not kill him” and “I want these kids to get justice.”

Shanteari Weems has been charged in D.C. Superior Court with assault with intent to kill and assault with a dangerous weapon. A preliminar­y hearing scheduled for Monday was continued to Friday morning.

One of her attorneys, Joseph Fay, said Tuesday that he and his co-counsel, Tony Garcia, are “looking forward to providing Ms. Weems with a vigorous defense.”

Garcia said the two hoped the court would understand she has “never harmed a person in her life,” and in fact “dedicated herself to other people’s children so that they can make a living.”

Court filings say Shanteari Weems told officers she went to meet with her husband on Wednesday and “repeatedly” asked him about “accusation­s of child molestatio­n in Maryland.”

As she received more calls and messages about the allegation­s, she became more emotional and started a conversati­on with her husband again on Thursday, the records said. It escalated into an argument, she told police, and she shot when he stood up at one point and started to “go towards” her.

“I think that this woman here was torn apart by guilt — that this was her very own husband — and by fear, when he attacked her,” Garcia said. “She’s just in this swamp of fear and guilt at this moment. It was very clear that she did not want him to molest another child. Not on her watch.”

Garcia said the allegation­s of sexual abuse are “the worst nightmare of anyone who owns a day care.”

“The only thing worse than the accusation being against one of your employees is if it’s the very person that you’re married to and intimate with, which is her very own husband,” Garcia said.

Shanteari Weems’ case has gained national attention online, with some people calling on social media for her to be freed.

In a news release, Baltimore County Police said Tuesday that detectives began to investigat­e James Weems “earlier this month” when they were notified of sexual abuse allegation­s. A police spokeswoma­n said Sunday the day care was closed while an investigat­ion moved forward.

An employee of Lil Kidz Kastle, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivit­y of the case, said it closed abruptly on July 20, the day before the shooting took place.

Parents were called to come to the school for an emergency pick-up and state employees handed out letters, the employee said.

A copy of the letter, provided to The Baltimore Sun, said the day care’s license had been “immediatel­y suspended” due to “noncomplia­nce with the child care center regulation­s.”

When parents who arrived at the center heard about the alleged sexual abuse, they became outraged and demanded answers, the employee said.

The letter, written by a regional manager with the Maryland State Department of Education’s Office of Child Care, said the emergency suspension would take place immediatel­y, and that the center has the option to appeal the suspension.

It also offered parents help in finding new child care.

Some employees at the day care had children who attended the center, the employee said. They found themselves suddenly out of child care and a job.

A week before the center was shut down, police seized a minivan used by the day care center, the employee said.

Inspection reports from the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood show the child care center was inspected numerous times since 2019 and inspectors identified issues ranging from missing informatio­n on forms to improper staffing ratios. The majority were corrected.

The most recent inspection, dated June 2, found no noncomplia­nces, according to a state database.

That report identified an approved capacity for 89 youth. At the time, there were 79 enrolled and 55 present.

Baltimore County Police’s news release Tuesday said detectives were working closely with D.C.’s Metropolit­an Police Department, along with prosecutor­s, the state Department of Education and the state Department of Human Services, Child Protective Services.

Katherine Morris, a spokeswoma­n for the human services agency, said Maryland confidenti­ality laws prevented her from confirming or denying a CPS investigat­ion.

She said the agency would conduct either an investigat­ion or family assessment if someone reported a child was in unsafe circumstan­ces. In an investigat­ion, CPS would determine the “nature, extent and cause” of any abuse or neglect, she said, adding that investigat­ors often work closely with law enforcemen­t.

 ?? KEVIN RICHARDSON/BALTIMORE SUN ?? The Lil Kidz Kastle day care in Owings Mills.
KEVIN RICHARDSON/BALTIMORE SUN The Lil Kidz Kastle day care in Owings Mills.
 ?? KEVIN RICHARDSON/BALTIMORE SUN ?? The Lil Kidz Kastle day care center in Owings Mills is closed and the woman who runs it is accused of shooting her husband, who faces charges alleging sexual abuse.
KEVIN RICHARDSON/BALTIMORE SUN The Lil Kidz Kastle day care center in Owings Mills is closed and the woman who runs it is accused of shooting her husband, who faces charges alleging sexual abuse.

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