Shanteari Weems was overwhelmed with hurt and grief.

She said she had learned of allegations that her husband, James, sexually abused children at a day care she owned in Owings Mills. She had not slept or eaten in days. And though she had not had a drink in more than 15 years, she bought a large bottle of Hennessy.

On July 21, 2022, Weems drove from Baltimore County to Washington, D.C., where her husband was working at a conference, and shot him twice inside his hotel room on the eighth floor of what was then called the Mandarin Oriental. He survived.

“I was just like a walking zombie,” she said. “I was in a daze. It was a feeling I had never felt or experienced before in my life.

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“I pretty much snapped. I just literally just snapped.”

Weems, 51, of Germantown, recounted that moment in a recent interview with The Baltimore Banner from FMC Lexington, a federal correctional institution in Kentucky where she’s serving a four-year sentence for aggravated assault and carrying a pistol without a license. Meanwhile, her husband is incarcerated and awaiting trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court on charges of sexual abuse of a minor, rape, perverted practice and related offenses.

She said she’s interested in talking about her experience to teach young people that what she did is not the right way to handle situations and help children who are survivors of sexual abuse.

“I want to reach people so that light can be shined on this unfortunate situation,” Weems said, “and something positive can come out of it.”

‘We were not going to fail’

Weems was born Shanteari Young in 1972 in Baltimore as the youngest of five siblings. Her father, Lester, was a licensed practice nurse, while her mother, Beulah, ran a home day care in West Baltimore.

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In 1990, Weems — or “Shanny” to loved ones — graduated from Baltimore City College and gave birth a few months later to her son, Andrew. She later became a correctional officer, a position she held for 11½ years.

While working at the Brockbridge Correctional Facility, Weems said, she started noticing that prisoners kept getting younger and younger. She said she wanted to make a difference and thought that it would be more effective to reach people earlier in life.

Later, Weems said, she learned about Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to building strong, women-owned businesses. She applied and was accepted into the program.

In 2005, Weems and her friend and business partner, Nicole Knox, opened the first location of Lil Kidz Kastle Daycare Center in Columbia. They had met while working as correctional officers and became close, later buying a home together in Randallstown.

“We were determined,” said Knox, 51, a train operator who lives in Germantown. “We were not going to fail.”

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Knox credited Weems for helping change her life. She said she always just worked and cared for her family. Weems, though, insisted that Knox treat herself. The two once went on a shopping trip that included a stop at Shoe City in the Reisterstown Road Plaza.

Weems and Knox opened a second location of Lil Kidz Kastle Daycare Center in 2006 in Owings Mills. They later closed the first one for financial reasons.

While in business, Weems met her future husband, a retired Baltimore Police officer who had served in the U.S. Marine Corps and worked in executive protection. They got married in 2017.

‘My world just started spinning’

On July 18, 2022, Weems recalled, her husband left to take his suits to get dry cleaned. But he walked back into the house minutes later and started calling her name.

That’s when, Weems said, her husband stated that Baltimore County Police had handed him a search-and-seizure warrant for his cellphone. He was holding the paper in his hand and explained that it had to do with something about showing children pornography or children watching pornography.

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“My world,” Weems said, “just started spinning.”

Police, he told her, were on their way to the day care. “So much was going through my head,” she recalled, “but I couldn’t make any sense of it.” When Weems pressed him, she said, her husband denied any knowledge of what was happening and of wrongdoing.

Law enforcement seized the day care van. Weems said she tried asking what was happening but could not get an answer.

The next day, Weems said, police told her she could pick up the van. “OK,” she thought, “maybe it’s a big mistake.”

But the following day, Weems said, authorities told her that they were shutting down the day care and had to interview all the children. She said she walked out in a daze, called her husband and screamed at him, “What did you do?” He again denied wrongdoing.

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She spent the night with him as planned in Washington, D.C., where he was providing security at the National Urban League Annual Conference. Parents, she said, kept calling her — but she did not have any answers.

Weems said she went back to the day care the next day and sent out a message apologizing to parents. One of them reached out about stopping by the business.

They started talking. The mother, Weems recalled, reported that authorities had interviewed her children and stated that one of those conversations went badly. Weems said the parent had mentioned that the alleged perpetrator was a staff member but later revealed that one of her children told investigators the name: “Mr. James.”

Weems said she apologized and was at a loss for words. She said she felt like harming herself. “They wasn’t just a paycheck for me,” she said. “I cared about these kids.”

She said she started drinking and then drove to Washington.

Inside Room 853 of the Mandarin Oriental, Weems said, she kept asking her husband about the allegations. That’s when she said they got into an argument.

“Just one thing led to another,” she said. “And then, I shot him.”

The bullet went through his neck and hit the wall, causing the smoke detector to go off and alert security. Weems then shot him again, shattering his left femur. Doctors at George Washington University Hospital inserted metal rods into his leg, according to court documents.

She said she thought that her husband was reaching for a weapon. It turned out to be his cellphone.

Prosecutors, though, presented a different version of events:

The couple kissed. When her husband got to the door, Weems called his name. He turned around and saw her pointing a gun at him. Next, Weems shot him, firing again after he fell to the ground. She was arrested and charged in the shooting.

Police filed charges days later against her husband. He’s now facing a total of 33 counts, including sexual abuse of a minor, rape and perverted practice, that allege he victimized four children.

His attorney, Thomas Pavlinic, declined to comment.

In court documents, Pavlinic wrote that a cursory reading of the indictment and an objective review of discovery shows that the state “vastly overcharged” his client, who has guarded high-profile athletes, celebrities and members of the royal family. He’s scheduled to appear in court for a motions hearing on June 21, according to online court records.

Weems later pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court to aggravated assault and carrying a pistol without a license. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia extended a plea agreement that called for her to serve a maximum of two years in prison plus three years’ supervised release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney LaVater Massie-Banks argued at sentencing that Weems had some sort of knowledge about the sexual abuse allegations days before the shooting.

Next, Massie-Banks went through a presentation that included text messages that Weems had sent that day as well as police body camera video. Massie-Banks said it was not a situation in which Weems “just happened upon this information.”

Weems, she said, barricaded herself in the hotel room. D.C. Metropolitan Police found a notebook in her room with an entry that began, “Im omw to shoot James.” The journal continued, “Im paralyze you so you can suffer like those kids will, you have ruined my entire life.”

But Tony Garcia, Weems’ attorney, contended that his client had been torn between believing the man she loved and trusting her conviction that children would not make up allegations of sexual abuse.

When Weems talked with the parent that morning, he said, his client realized that there were no surveillance cameras in the van. “That’s when it tipped,” Garcia said, “that she knew he was lying.”

Weems stated that she wished she had let the criminal justice system handle the case and spoke about how she had viewed her husband as a protector. Supporters filled the courtroom inside the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse and vouched for her character.

“I reacted as a protective mother,” Weems said. “However, I know that doesn’t justify my actions and I shouldn’t have taken matters into my own hands.

“I was wrong,” she added. “And I take full accountability for my actions.”

Stating that the “only bright spot in this is that you didn’t end up taking your own life,” Judge Michael O’Keefe sentenced Weems to four years in prison on charges of aggravated assault and carrying a pistol without a license — plus two years’ supervised release.

“We live in a society of law, and not of men. And we can’t act upon our emotions,” O’Keefe said. “We have to let the court system, the justice system, do its job.”

O’Keefe later denied her motion for sentence reconsideration.

‘I’m blessed’

Keara Hayes met Weems in 1979 in second grade at Hilton Elementary School.

Hayes, 51, a small-business owner who lives in Phoenix, Baltimore County, described Weems as “one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.” She’s a kind, loving, gentle human being who has a love for children, Hayes said, and a giver.

When Hayes started her own payroll processing company, Weems quickly became her first client. She said she leaned on her for advice when going through a divorce in 2013.

“She reminded me of who I was and my worth,” said Hayes, who added that she knew she could count on Weems for a nonjudgmental conversation.

More specifically, Weems, she said, told her that she was a “bad bitch.” Said Hayes: “And you know, I took that in the most complimentary way ever.”

Meanwhile, Kareem Land became friends with Weems in 1999 when both of them worked as correctional officers.

They shared the same mindset, he said, and connected. Weems is genuine, easygoing and approachable, Land said.

In 2016, Land’s son, who’s also named Kareem, was a senior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Land said a family member was supposed to pitch in 50-50 to pay for pictures and provide spending money for prom. But that didn’t happen.

Weems, he said, told him to later swing by Lil Kidz Kastle Daycare Center. That’s when she gave him almost $150. She said she only expected a thank-you from his son in return.

“I was shocked,” said Land, 48, a security officer who lives in Gwynn Oak. “She jumped right in without thinking to help me.”

Weems said she’s planning to start a nonprofit organization — it’s already registered as Opened Umbrellas 4 Lil Kidz LLC — to help children who are survivors of sexual abuse. She said she wants to go to schools and day cares and teach people how to identify perpetrators and talk about her experience.

It’s her determination, she said, to “make this unfortunate situation something positive.” Her expected release date is Dec. 17, 2025, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

“I don’t want anyone to feel sorry or anything of that nature,” said Weems, who has since filed for divorce from her husband. “I’m blessed. I’ll be fine.”

Instead, Weems said, she wants people to focus on the children.

dylan.segelbaum@thebaltimorebanner.com