It was nearly a year ago that three-year-old Ji’Aire Simms died from dehydration and hypothermia after his mother pushed him in a swing for 48 hours. Originally charged with manslaughter, child neglect, and first-degree child abuse, Simms was not held criminally responsible for her son’s death.
Recognizing that the 25-year-old woman suffered from schizophrenia, but was not a danger to the public, the court granted Simms a five-year conditional release, subject to certain conditions (such as taking her medicine and seeing a psychiatrist regularly).
As DeNeen Brown writes for the Washington Post, Simms now spends most of her days in her room at her mother’s house in Maryland.
All around her are reminders of Ji’Aire — his toys, his favorite stuffed animal, clothes that she cannot bring herself to give away, and her favorite picture of them together, smiling after his first haircut:
While the twice-weekly therapy and regular support group meetings are helping, she says she will, “never get over” losing Ji’Aire. At night, she sees him in her dreams, only to wake and know that he’s not there:
“Sometimes I find myself doing weird things, like I will grab his socks and just hold onto his socks,” Romechia says. “Or I will grab one of his toy balls and hold onto his ball–anything that helps me to feel close–that I know was his.”
Not only does Simms have to live with the knowledge that she’s responsible for her son’s death, but she’s also well aware of how she’s regarded by others:
“People will judge me,” she told the Post. “For what happened. Someone will point a finger and say, ‘There is that mother who . . . Nothing like that has ever happened before.”
Most of the details are still a blank to her. She recalls holding hands with Ji’Aire as they went to the park on a cold spring day. She knows that she had stopped taking the medication for her schizophrenia out of the belief that it wasn’t working:
And it is clear that after she put her son in the swing, she couldn’t make herself take him out again:
“And then the voices started telling her, ‘Don’t worry. Someone is coming. Someone is going to come,’” says Elizabeth Connell, Romechia’s lawyer.
In that 48 hours, it rained, the temperature dropped to 51 degrees, and Simms never left the playground.
As horrified as the public was by the story, Simms’s mother, Vontasha Simms, hopes that people will also see the element of love fighting through Simms’s illness:
“Even during that terrible time, in the darkest moment of her life, she never left him there alone,” Vontasha Simms told the Post.
“She stayed out there in the cold and the rain. She nearly had pneumonia herself. She took off her coat to cover his body. She never lost that motherly instinct.”
Before Ji’Aire’s death, Simms was going to college in the hopes of becoming a teacher. That plan is now gone. She hopes to become a nurse one day, but for now, she’s just trying to find a way to keep going:
“Even though times have been hard, I still try to keep the faith, and I just pray that you stay with him and bless him and look over my family and help us to move on after something so tragic.”
Simms prayed during a visit to Ji’Aire’s grave, “We never know why, dear Lord, but we know there will come a time for us all. And we plan on meeting Ji’Aire one day again in heaven.”