The mother of a murdered toddler has filed a wrongful death suit. She is seeking $20 million from the psychologist she claims played a key role in granting unsupervised visits to the child's father.
Last month, Joaquin Rams was charged with killing 15-month-old Prince during one of those visits. Hera McLeod says the psychologist hired and paid for by Rams to testify in their custody dispute ignored troubling evidence about his history of violence.
"My son was my heart," McLeod said with tears welling up in her eyes.
Prince was McLeod's only child. She says she will never get over his death, but she wants to make sure those involved in Prince's death pay. She has filed a lawsuit against an Ashburn psychologist and practice she claims knew Rams was dangerous. He is accused of drowning the child in a bathtub.
"There is no price, there is no lawsuit that's going to bring him back, but what I can do is make sure that nobody will forget him," McLeod said explaining why she filed the lawsuit.
The lawsuit filed in Fairfax County, where Prince died, accuses Ashburn Psychological Services and psychologist Margaret Wong of negligence, infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death. Wong testified during the couple's custody dispute in Montgomery County that Rams was mentally fit and recommended he be granted unsupervised visits. According to the lawsuit, the doctor ignored reports that Rams had been abusive, was a suspect in the murder of his ex-girlfriend Shawn Mason, and in the death of his own mother.
"This was not a situation where a normal, otherwise mentally stable person suddenly snapped," said McLeod's attorney Patrick Regan. "Mr. Rams has a long history of violence."
The judge granted the visits, in part, because of the doctor's testimony. Then last October, the toddler died while in the care of his father.
Last month after the autopsy was complete, Rams was charged in the child's murder.
Police say he had taken out $550,000 in life insurance on the child.
"I think anyone would agree that a parent who would take out a life insurance policy on an infant he had no financial or legal responsibility and violently murder that child knew exactly what he did," said McLeod.
Rams has not been charged in the other two deaths, but Prince's death prompted the commonwealth's attorney to take a second look.
"People die around this guy," pointed out Regan. "Three people have now died. And all of whom he's had a financial benefit to some extent in their death."
Rams' attorney did not respond to our call seeking comment, and neither did Ashburn psychological services or Dr. Wong.
McLeod has spent the months since her son's death trying to find justice for him and to make sure what happened to Prince doesn't happen to another family or child. She's not sure she will ever find closure.
"The day that Mr. Rams was arrested was probably one of the best days of my life," she said.
But McLeod also believes the psychologist who vouched for Rams should be held accountable for her son's murder too.
After his death, McLeod moved to California, afraid for her own life. Since Rams arrest, she has moved back to the D.C. area, but says she will always be looking over her shoulder. At the time of the custody fight, she was worried she would be the one killed and wrote more than 200 letters to her son if that happened. Now he will never read them.