A retired Baltimore City officer who faces sex abuse charges in Baltimore County was ordered held without bail Tuesday.
James Weems, 57, of Randallstown, is accused of abusing at least three children at his wife’s Owings Mills daycare. He retired from the Baltimore Police Department in 2005 and is a Marine veteran.
Police believe there are more victims, and said they are in the process of interviewing 93 children who attended the facility.
Weems faces 13 charges, which police say are based on interviews with the victims and forensic evidence. There are three counts each of sexual abuse of a minor, second-degree assault, third-degree sex offense and fourth-degree sexual contact, along with one charge for displaying obscene material to a minor.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren, who was present at the hearing, said Weems repeatedly shook his head while the charges were read against him. He had difficulty walking after his wife shot him and used a walker.
An investigation began on July 3 when parents reported to police their 10-year-old daughter told them “Mr. James” showed her pornography on a daycare bus, and that he touched her inappropriately at the facility’s playground, according to charging documents obtained by WJZ.
A search and seizure warrant was executed on July 18 in which Weems’ cell phone was seized. A search of Weems browsing history corroborated what the 10-year-old girl told police, the charging documents allege.
On July 21, a 7-year-old boy who attended the daycare said in an interview with the Department of Social Services — which was investigating Weems’ contact with other children — that he was touched inappropriately at the daycare. Investigators were able to narrow down the suspect to Weems.
On July 23, officers responded to a reported past sexual assault, the documents said. Parents reported their 12-year-old daughter told them “Mr. James” touched her in a “very inappropriate way.” The girl told police in an interview “Mr. James” also asked her to take explicit pictures of herself, but that she said no, the charging documents said.
Weems was hospitalized when a warrant was issued last Monday for his arrest. His wife, Shanteari, shot him twice in a D.C. hotel room during an argument over the allegations, according to authorities.
Shanteari Weems was ordered held without bond Friday after a judge deemed her a danger to the community. She faces multiple charges, including assault with intent to kill and possession of an unregistered firearm, in her husband’s shooting.
Police called to a shooting at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel spoke with Shanteari Weems, who told them she had shot her husband because he had charged toward her during an argument, court records show.
The daycare owner allegedly threatened to harm herself if police entered the hotel room. But at some point, she was taken into custody and her husband was taken to a hospital for treatment.
Two guns and a notebook that detailed Shanteari Weems’ alleged plans to confront her husband were recovered as evidence as part of the investigation into the shooting, court records state, along with an informal will.
The woman’s attorneys have said their client acted in self-defense when she opened fire at her husband, saying she had no choice but to shoot him when he “charged at her.”
“She had to defend herself and she shot him–twice–but she did not intend to kill him,” attorney Tony Garcia told WJZ on Thursday.
Donald Jones, who served with James Weems in the Marines and calls him a lifelong friend, told Hellgren he doesn’t believe the allegations, and that he’s “floored.”
Jones said he recently vacationed with Weems and his wife and nothing was amiss.
“At the end of June, I was with them. There was no animosity. …I know the first weekend of July, they were in Miami. They were celebrating the Fourth of July together. No issues,” Jones said.
A public defender is representing James Weems. He argued his client should be released on bail because the “publicity” in the case would prevent him from committing any further abuse.
“If you would see a lifelong friend of yours in trauma, then you know what you would feel. That’s what I feel. It’s a highly emotional situation” Jones said. “I’m here to support him. I just don’t feel he is capable of committing any of this stuff. There’s nothing in his past. There’s nothing in the way we were raised. I don’t see it. I just don’t see him doing any of that. Period.”
Prosecutor Everett Bryant called James Weems “manipulative” and said he “abused a position of trust.”
He declined to discuss the investigation further after the hearing. “Obviously, these are very, very serious offenses, which is why we are asking that Mr. Weems be held without bail,” Bryant said. “I can’t go into any details. The investigation is still ongoing.”
He said in court that authorities were still working to get passwords to access more electronic devices and home security footage in the case.
According to charging documents, James Weems made two of the alleged victims sit in the front seat of the daycare van with him.
The documents also state he ordered two of the victims not to speak about what happened.
The allegations came to light when family members saw their child watching pornography on her tablet. “When I asked, the victim stated that her bus driver at daycare ‘Mr. James’ showed her where to find the pornography. The victim went on to tell her family that ‘Mr. James’ showed her pornography on his cell phone while they were on the daycare bus,” the charging documents state.
Some of the abuse happened in a secured playground adjacent to the daycare, the documents state.
James Weems had been driving the daycare van for two years. He worked at the facility for the past four years. “God bless the kids, the parents. If they have proof, he’ll have to have his day in court,” Jones said.