Families, employees at Owings Mills day care say they questioned behavior of man charged in abuse case

Published on: July 27, 2022 6:48 PM EDT|Updated on: July 27, 2022 7:38 PM EDT

Shanteari Weems (left) and James Weems (right)

The Baltimore County man charged with sex offenses against children at an Owings Mills day care will be returned to Maryland while he awaits trial.

James Weems, 57, of Randallstown, appeared in Superior Court of Washington, D.C. Wednesday afternoon and will not challenge extradition. Weems arrived at his arraignment wearing a white prison jumpsuit and using a wheelchair. He is currently on a three-day fugitive hold, according to court documents.

Weems, a former Baltimore Police officer who left the force in 2008, was charged Monday with 13 counts related to three victims at Lil Kidz Kastle Daycare, which is owned by Shanteari Weems, his wife. Shanteari Weems told police she confronted her husband about abuse allegations Thursday at Washington’s Mandarin Oriental hotel and shot her husband when he approached her during the conversation.

Shanteari Weems is scheduled to appear in District of Columbia Superior Court Friday morning. She has been charged with assault with intent to kill, possession of an unregistered firearm, possession of unregistered ammunition and carrying a pistol without a license. Her attorney, Tony Garcia, said he would have more information about the case after Friday’s hearing.

Baltimore County Police said they are still “trying to figure out those arrangements” for taking custody of James Weems.

Customers, employees and friends of the couple said this week they were surprised by the charges, but that some had questioned James Weems’ behavior at the day care center.

Several parents defended Shanteari Weems and said they still trust her with their children.

Parents described a chaotic scene last week as they were urgently called to the day care to pick up their children because the center was abruptly closed. State officials from an unidentified agency were waiting, but parents got few answers.

One father of a child at Lil Kidz Kastle didn’t learn all of the details about what had happened until later when the story came out in the news, and was furious when he did. He requested anonymity to protect his child.

The parents took their child to a doctor to get checked out. They also asked the child a series of questions — about the day care, about James Weems, specifically, and if he had done anything or said anything out of the ordinary.

As far as they can tell, he said, the child is fine.

But “to be completely honest, we don’t know everything that happened,” he said. “So I don’t even know if my [child] is really not affected by it.”

The situation blindsided him as a parent. “There wasn’t really any signs that this could be going on,” he said. He rarely saw James Weems at the day care, he said, although they had met a few times before.

Shan Washington began sending her son to Lil Kidz Kastle in 2014. She has fond memories of the day care and of Shanteari Weems herself, who Washington said was like a second mother to her. Over time, she even started calling the Weemses mom and dad.

“When I met Shannie [Shanteari], she read me like a book,” Washington said.

Shanteari Weems immediately sensed Washington was a single mom working long hours with little help — and let her drop off her son early, pick him up late, and helped her with late payments.

Last week, when news of child abuse allegations broke, Washington was shocked.

“Not Mr. James, not Pop,” she thought.

But she said both she and her son had concerns about Weems’ behavior.

A former employee who worked at the day care until 2018 said she also noticed red flags. The employee requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

“I felt like he was a little too friendly with the children,” she said of James Weems, who worked at the day care driving kids and helping out when the center was short staffed. “A lot of parents didn’t trust him around their child.”

She recalled James Weems treated little girls and boys differently. With little girls, he’d pick them up and embrace them or flip them upside down — even if they were wearing skirts or dresses. With little boys he’d wrestle with them, sometimes a little too zealously, resulting in teachers breaking up the play fights.

The former employee also mentioned repeatedly stopping James Weems from taking girls to the bathroom, and would even try to prevent him from entering day care rooms — at times causing James Weems to yell at her.

Another parent said her child frequently interacted with James Weems. She had two children enrolled in Lil Kidz Kastle when it shut down. She also requested anonymity.

Other than when he was driving, she said, she never saw James Weems left alone with children. But she said her daughter would often bring him up.

“She would always talk to me about Mr. James. ‘Oh, Mr. James gave me candy,’ or ‘Mr. James took us to school today,’” she said. “So when I found out that this was going on, and my child has talked about Mr. James and the way that she talked about him, I got alarmed.”

After the accusations surfaced, she had a conversation with her child. She asked if Weems had ever touched her or shown her anything. Her daughter assured her that Weems had not.

“It’s a tough conversation,” she said. Her daughter didn’t understand why she was asking the questions, she said, and has been asking when she can return to the day care and when she can see Shanteari Weems again.

“I’m confused. I’m hurting for these kids. I’m hurting for my kid. I had to explain ... why she hasn’t gone back,” she said. “It’s tough. It’s just tough.”

The case has caught national attention, with supporters posting on social media that Shanteari Weems should be freed. Multiple parents and former employees said they did not think that Shanteari Weems was aware of her husband’s behavior because she worked out front at the main desk while the rest of the day care was in separate rooms in back.

Several day care parents also defended Weems and said she went out of her way to help them.

Shinae Chisholm is a former parent and volunteer. She said Shanteari Weems cared a lot about her children and was kind to her as a parent.

“There would be times that I was late picking my kids up from there, and she’ll hold the center open late for me just so I would be able to pick them up,” she said.

Despite the news, the parent with two children at Lil Kidz Kastle said she would return her kids to Shanteari Weems’ care in a heartbeat.

“I would trust my kids with her 10 times over, if she got out today or tomorrow and decided to reopen I would give her my kids,” she said. “That’s how much I trusted her.”

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