Mentally Ill Mother Cries at 3-Year-Old Maryland Boy’s Funeral

© Bill O'Leary James Lee, the fatherJi'Aire Lee, displays a snapshot of his two sons, Jahmari, 9, and the late Ji'Aire. 3.
© Bill O’Leary James Lee, the fatherJi’Aire Lee, displays a snapshot of his two sons, Jahmari, 9, and the late Ji’Aire. 3.

She wiped away tears Friday at the funeral for her 3-year-old son, who was found dead on a park swing in Southern Maryland after she’d been pushing him for hours, possibly overnight. 

Ji’Aire Lee’s small body was laid out in a white casket at First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Landover, surrounded by sprays of white roses. His 24-year-old mother, Romechia Simms, who’d been hospitalized for four days after his death, was among those singing “This Little Light of Mine.” His father, James “Donnell” Lee, 29, who sought custody of the preschooler in March because he was concerned about Simms’s mental stability, sat in the same pew, just a few mourners away, at the front of the church.

Later, as pallbearers carried the casket to the burial site at Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton, Md., the two grieving parents held hands.

In the funeral program, Simms included a letter she’d written to Ji’Aire: “Son, the joy you brought to my life is unexplainable. . . . I miss you so much Ji’Aire, way more than I could possibly express through words. I am slowly accepting your passing. I want you to know that I have always been extremely proud of you, and I love you until the end of time. Ji’Aire Donnell Lee you are amazing. Love always, Mommy.”

Charles County sheriff’s deputies found Ji’Aire and Simms on May 22 in Wills Memorial Park in La Plata after a neighbor who’d seen them the night before called police. The cause of death has not been determined, but Ji’Aire’s body showed no signs of trauma, authorities said. Detectives are still investigating what happened, and no charges have been filed.

[She’d recovered from a breakdown. Then her son was found dead on a swing ]

On Friday, as gospel music spilled from speakers, photos of Ji’Aire as a newborn in blue tucked in his mother’s arms at a hospital flashed on video screens. More photos followed of him as a sleeping newborn, a crawling baby, a toddler sucking his thumb, swinging on a playground and in a blue shirt raising four fingers and grinning.

Ji’Aire’s obituary described him as a cheerful boy who loved playing outside and watching his cousins play football: “He loved bossing his cousin Jhai around and taking over his PS4. He loved watching movies with his parents such as Scooby Doo, Austin Powers (his favorite lines to quote are ‘Yeah Baby’ and ‘Ohh Behave.’ He loved singing and dancing like his mother and father. You could always catch him grooving to a song making up his own dance showing the world his style.”

After the service, Ji’Aire’s parents walked out of the church behind the casket. Simms, whose hair was piled in a high bun, wore a black dress and black sandals. Lee wore a white tuxedo jacket over black pants. Outside, in the church’s vestibule, mourners hugged them. A white hearse led the procession to the cemetery.

Diane Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, said this week that investigators are still awaiting toxicology reports.

“We are focused on finding out what happened to the child,” Richardson said. “Our detectives are very compassionate, yet very focused. We are working hard to get answers.”

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Source: The Washington Post | DaNeen L. Brown

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