April 13, 2017 02:50 PM


A Virginia man has been convicted of murdering his 15-month-old son in what prosecutors say was an attempt to collect half a million dollars in life insurance, PEOPLE confirms.

Fairfax County, Virginia, Judge Randy Bellows issued his ruling on Thursday. Defendant Joaquin Shadow Rams, 38, will likely receive a life sentence as a result of the verdict.

Rams had waived his right to a jury trial after authorities agreed not to seek the death penalty, prosecutor Paul Ebert tells PEOPLE.

Rams was charged with murdering his young son, Prince McLeod Rams, in 2013 — several months after the boy died under suspicious circumstances.

Medical examiners disagreed on what killed the child, initially ruling that Prince had drowned, Ebert says. That decision was later overturned, however, and the cause was amended to “undetermined.”

Rams has long maintained his innocence, insisting his son died after suffering a fever-induced seizure which he experienced during an unsupervised, court-mandated visit with his father. (The seizures Prince suffered are not known to be fatal in children his age.)

In court, Ebert argued that Rams drowned or suffocated his son inside his home in Manassas, Virginia, believing he would be able to collect on more than $500,000 in life insurance that he had taken out on the child.

Rams and the boy’s mother had been engaged, but she broke off their relationship two weeks after her son was born.

Manassas City Police Department

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Rams’ defense attorney insisted he bought the three insurance policies in his son’s name as a way to save for his college education — while Prince died, tragically, of natural causes.

Ebert has said it’s possible Rams may be a serial killer, responsible for at least two other deaths: His former girlfriend, Shawn Mason, was fatally shot in 2003 and the 2008 death of his mother, Alma Collins, was ruled a suicide.

His mom dying resulted in a financial windfall for Rams, who received $150,000 in life insurance. Prosecutors claim he also unsuccessfully attempted to collect on a policy associated with Mason.

However, Ebert was barred from discussing the deaths of Rams’ mother and ex-girlfriend during his murder trial.

The deaths of Collins and Mason “are under investigation,” Ebert tells PEOPLE, but he would not discuss possible charges against Rams.

On Thursday, Rams was also found guilty of insurance fraud.

“This guy thought he was smarter than he was, like most criminals do,” Ebert says. “He lived his entire adult life off proceeds from others’ deaths.”

Rams will be sentenced on June 22. His defense attorney did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

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