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Father of toddler found dead in swing speaks out about mother

WASHINGTON — A 3-year-old boy who was found dead in a swing being pushed by his mother in La Plata, Maryland, last week was caught in the middle of a court battle before his death, according to NBC Washington.

Ji-Aire Lee’s body was discovered Friday on a park swing that his mother had been pushing back and forth for hours — or even since the day before.

The child’s father, James Lee, says he fought for sole custody of his son, because the mother — 24-year-old mother, Romechia Simms — was mentally ill. His efforts were not successful.

“I have a stable home for him,” Lee tells NBC Washington. “I have a stable roof for him to be under, for him to have the life that he’s supposed to have.”

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Sheriff’s deputies went to a park in La Plata about 7 a.m. after being called to check on the welfare of the woman and child, said Diane Richardson, a spokeswoman with the Charles County Sheriff’s Office.  The caller told dispatchers that the woman had been there for an unusually long period of time, possibly from the day before, says Richardson.

The officers went to remove the boy from the swing and give him first aid, but “it was instantaneously clear the child was dead,” she said. There were no signs of trauma to his body.

Richardson said first responders’ immediate instinct was to provide first aid to the child, but they were not able to get the child out of the swing. Almost simultaneously, they realized the child was deceased and probably had been dead for a few hours, Richardson said.

Simms is currently being treated at a hospital.

Investigators are piecing together a timeline of the days leading up to the child’s death.

An autopsy has been completed, but the Charles County Sheriff’s Office says more tests will be required before a cause of death can be determined.

The sheriff’s office won’t comment on whether mental illness played a role.

The Associated Press and WTOP’s Nick Iannelli contributed to this report

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