The Baltimore County day care owner who shot her husband over child sex abuse allegations entered a guilty plea Monday in D.C. Superior Court to assault and firearm charges.
Shanteari Weems, 50, could be sentenced to prison time for the offenses. Her sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 3, Judge Michael O’Keefe said.
On July 21, Weems shot her husband, James S. Weems Jr., because she believed he’d molested children at her Owings Mills day care, according to charging documents. She was arrested following a shooting at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington.
According to prosecutors, Shanteari Weems went to the hotel armed with a pistol she was unlicensed to carry in D.C. and shot her husband twice following an argument. Her husband underwent emergency surgery to repair his femur following the shooting.
She was indicted in October on charges of aggravated assault, firearm possession in a crime of violence, carrying a pistol without a license, and resisting arrest. Her guilty plea was for aggravated assault and carrying a pistol; the other charges were dismissed.
Weems appeared at the Monday hearing in person wearing an orange jumpsuit. She spoke when the judge asked her questions but did not otherwise address the court.
Tony Garcia, a defense attorney for Weems, said prosecutors are expected to ask for a sentence of two years in prison, followed by three years of probation, according to the terms of the plea. Garcia said he would argue with “everything I have” for less.
“When this argument takes place, she believes [her husband] was armed, and she shot him,” Garcia said. “Ms. Weems was traumatized by the fact that her very husband was [accused of] molesting these children. It had to stop, it would stop. And, as a result of what happened that night, and as a result of her giving information to the police, he is now charged.”
Garcia said Shanteari Weems’s first shot hit her husband’s neck. The second struck him in the leg while he was on the ground, Garcia said, calling that a “problem at trial.”
Still, he urged support for his client: “I ask people to stand with her,” he said. “Stand with the children. Stand with Ms. Weems.”
Court filings stated she told police she didn’t intend to kill her husband and that a conversation between the two escalated to an argument. He later stood up and began to go toward her and she shot him, she said.
Garcia said in August the shooting was a “split-second” decision. He said his client was “not a fighter.”
When Judge Sherry M. Trafford decided in late July that Weems should not be released before her next court appearance, attendees on a virtual platform objected, calling out: “What if that was your grandkid?” and “Free Ms. Weems!”
Weems’ husband, James, faces dozens of criminal charges in Baltimore County Circuit Court connected to alleged sexual abuse of children. At least some of the children related to those charges attended Lil Kidz Kastle, the day care his wife owns.
James Weems, a former Baltimore Police officer, worked at his wife’s day care for four years and as a bus driver for two of those years, according to the Baltimore County prosecutor on his case, Zarena Sita.
He is scheduled for a jury trial in May, according to a courts website.
D.C. court filings said police recovered a notebook from the hotel where the shooting occurred. It had handwritten messages that said, “I’m going to shoot” him “but not kill him” and “I want these kids to get justice.”
Court filings said Shanteari Weems told officers she went to meet with her husband and asked him about “accusations of child molestation.”
Garcia previously said the allegations were “the worst nightmare of anyone who owns a day care.”
Weems’ day care closed July 20, the day before the shooting. A news release from Baltimore County Police in July said the agency was working closely with D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, prosecutors, the state Department of Education and the state Department of Human Services, Child Protective Services.
A spokeswoman for the human services agency said at the time that Maryland confidentiality laws prevented her from confirming or denying a CPS investigation.