Grandmother of child found dead in swing speaks out

The grandmother of the three-year-old who was found dead Friday spoke out to WUSA9.

LA PLATA, Md. (WUSA9) -- The grandmother of a three-year-old boy found dead at La Plata playground last week says her daughter would never do anything to hurt her son.

On Friday morning, Charles County Police found Romechia Simms swinging her deceased son for what investigators said was an 'unusual amount of time.'

Simms is facing no immediate charges in connection to the incident, and is being treated at a local hospital.

Family members identified the son as Ji'Aire Lee.

Amid speculation and national attention, Simms' mother, Vontasha Simms, decided to speak exclusively to WUSA 9. The 47-year-old mother of four says she wants to set the record straight.

"[Romechia] would never harm my grandson in any type of way. You know, I just believe she had some type of mental illness, some type of mental break that came upon her where she wasn't able to get herself out of that situation," said Vontasha Simms.

Vontasha Simms claims her daughter was diagnosed with a mental illness about three months ago and had been seeking help, up until police discovered her with her son at Wills Memorial Park.

The park is about a mile away from a hotel where the family is staying. Vontasha Simms told WUSA 9 they are homeless and that Romechia suffered depression trying to deal with this while still taking care of her son.

"I don't want people to look down upon her I want people to use the situation as an opportunity to grow, learn from it. Like I said, help your neighbor, if you suffer from mental issues and you need help, don't be afraid to reach out to somebody," Vontasha Simms said.

An autopsy has been conducted, but Charles County Sheriff's Office Spokesperson Diane Richardson told WUSA9 their findings are incomplete because they are still waiting for toxicology reports and other information to return.

Police will not comment on whether mental illness played a role. Neither will the man believed to Ji'Aire's father, who declined to comment on the situation.

On a GoFundMe page set-up to help the family, WUSA 9 learned there may have been a recent custody battle over Ji'Aire.

A GoFundMe page reads, "Donnell Lee has been trying to get Sole Physically custody of his son Ji'Aire since March 2015 (but was failed by the court system). Due to tragic unforeseen circumstances, Ji'Aire passed away on the morning of Friday, May 22nd."

Richardson says police are still putting together a timeline of events and ask for the public's help. Anyone who may have seen the young mother and her son around the time of this incident is asked to contact the Charles County Sheriff's Office.

"This is a top priority for us. This is a 3-year-old boy that's deceased. We don't know the cause of death. There are no obvious signs of trauma, but he is deceased and our detectives are working around the clock trying to put information together to answer the question as to how this child died," Richardson said.

A second GoFundMe page has also been set up for Ji'Aire.

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