A Maryland woman, who shot her husband in a rage after becoming convinced he was sexually abusing kids at her day care, was sentenced to four years in prison by a D.C. judge.
The sentence — double the amount sought by prosecutors after 50-year-old Shanteari Weems pleaded guilty last fall — left people inside the packed courtroom in tears. Her lawyer, who was essentially hoping for time served, said he’d never seen something like that happen before.
“This woman, day in and day out, helps people, helps children, helps the poor, helps the abused, helps the violent, helps the innocent, and to get that kind of deal, to get that kind of sentence is — frankly, to me, it’s insulting,” Weems’ lawyer, Tony Garcia, said. “It simply doesn’t make sense at all.”
Weems ran the Lil Kidz Kastle day care in Owings Mills in Baltimore County, Maryland. She pleaded guilty last November to charges of aggravated assault and carrying an unlicensed pistol in D.C. Prosecutors were asking for two years in prison, with the understanding that she would ask for time served.
Judge Michael O’Keefe called that “too lenient,” and basically doubled it.
The hearing began with prosecutors showing police bodycam footage from the minutes after the shooting in a room at what was then called the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Southwest D.C. Weems could be heard cursing him and saying she wanted him to suffer.
Her husband, James Weems, was retired military and a retired police officer who was working as an elite security guard when his wife confronted him in the hotel room and shot him. He was shot in the neck and the leg, with the first shot going through him and the second shattering his thigh bone.
It happened days after Weems learned about allegations that her husband was sexually abusing children under her watch. Weems’ husband is now facing child sex abuse charges in Baltimore County and his wife has been fully cooperating with authorities in that case. Her defense attorney was hopeful that would also work in her favor.
Garcia told the court that while Weems had known about the accusations for about three days before the shooting, it wasn’t until the day it happened that she became convinced her husband was lying.
Garcia said the mother of one of four children Weems’ husband is accused of abusing said it had happened inside a transport van used to take kids to and from school. It was the only place that wasn’t monitored by security cameras and is what “tipped the scale,” Garcia said.
During the sentencing hearing, several people spoke to the court in Weems’ favor, and then she told the court herself, “I wish I would have done things differently.”
The former correctional officer said she quit that job to open a day care center in the hopes of having an impact on kids, after noticing the inmates where she worked were getting younger and younger.
She described how her husband “always told me he was my protector.”
Through tears, she told the judge how she thought her day care center had protection no other facility in the region had.
“I was supposed to protect those children,” she sobbed. “My husband was supposed to help me protect them.”
O’Keefe called it a “terrible case,” but also noted that Weems could have faced much more serious charges than what she pleaded guilty to, which could have carried much more time in prison. He also pointed out that she acted with “deliberate cruelty,” and that she admitted hoping to paralyze her husband, and that the injuries he was left with were still life-altering.
“We can’t say, ‘Oh yeah, he’s a child molester so you deserve what you got,’” O’Keefe said. “There has to be serious consequences.”
To Weems, he said, “You’ll get through it,” before ordering her to five years in prison on the aggravated assault charge, with one of those years suspended, and two years for carrying an unlicensed gun into the city, four of those months suspended. Those sentences will be served concurrently.
“She was stunned,” Garcia said. “She was obviously in tears. She’s upset. She thought that worst-case scenario she’d be doing two years.”