Suspect Told Witness: ‘I’ve Gotten Everybody Who Wanted to Hurt Me’
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (AP) _ A man suspected in one of America’s worst mass killings told a witness as he finished a shooting spree, ″I’ve gotten everybody who wanted to hurt me,″ according to his former boss.
R. Gene Simmons Sr., 47, was described by enraged relatives as a wife- abusing recluse who once was charged with incest, and his sister-in-law said ″you knew he was capable″ of the 16 slayings.
Simmons was ordered held without bond Tuesday in connection with two of the killings, about the same time authorities started to uncover the bodies of nine relatives in a shallow grave and in the trunk of two cars near his rural home.
Five other slain family members were found in the home Monday after a 45- minute shooting spree in downtown Russellville in which two people were killed and four others wounded.
Simmons surrendered to police after briefly holing up with a hostage at Woodline Motor Freight Inc., where he once worked and where he shot a woman he disliked, authorities said.
Robert Wood, president of the company, said Simmons told the woman he took hostage: ″I’ve come to do what I wanted to do. It’s all over now. I’ve gotten everybody who wanted to hurt me.″
Russellville Police Chief Herb Johnston filed information Tuesday accusing Simmons of two counts of capital murder and four of attempted capital murder stemming from Monday’s shootings.
Prosecutor John Bynum said he would formally file two capital murder charges today against Simmons, as well as four attempted capital murder charges. He said he intends eventually to accuse Simmons in the 14 other deaths.
Bynum said he would seek the death penalty for Simmons.
″It was a cruel and senseless act that was committed and the death penalty would certainly be justified,″ he said.
The retired Air Force master sergeant’s 46-year-old wife, Becky, was among the dead found Tuesday, Pope County Sheriff Jim Bolin said.
Her sister, Edith Nesby, of Briggsdale, Colo., said the few surviving family members, who were to help authorities make formal identifications today, felt pain and rage.
″You don’t want to think he would do something like that, but you knew he was capable of doing it,″ Mrs. Nesby, 41, said in an interview published today in the Arkansas Gazette.
In a letter to her brother several days before she was slain, Mrs. Simmons spoke cheerfully about her family and said all was well.
″We are doing fine here,″ she wrote to her brother Abe Ulibarri and his family. ″I keep as busy as ever. Would sure love to get a long letter from you and tell me how the whole family is.″
The handwritten three-page letter arrived at Ulibarri’s home a day or two before Christmas.
″This is the first time Becky ever included a letter inside her Christmas card,″ Ulibarri said Tuesday.″I think she sensed all this, like she’s asking for help. I wish we’d been a closer family, someone would have been able to talk her away from this.″
Mrs. Nesby said Simmons moved to Arkansas from Cloudcroft, N.M., six years ago because he had been charged with sexually abusing his daughter, Sheila.
Records in the 12th New Mexico Judicial District show Simmons was charged Aug. 11, 1981 with three counts of incest. The charges were conditionally dismissed Aug. 10, 1982.
The district attorney’s office filed a formal entry that no further effort would be made to prosecute the case, because Simmons could not be found. But it specified that charges could be refiled if he were located. The dismissal, however, canceled the arrest warrant.
Former District Attorney Steven Sanders of Alamogordo, N.M., 13 miles southwest of Cloudcroft, confirmed that Sheila was the alleged incest victim, and said she was about 16 years old and pregnant when the charges were filed, the El Paso Times reported today.
Mrs. Nesby said the family believes Simmons fathered Sylvia McNulty, 6.
Sheila McNulty, 24, was identified Tuesday as one of the five found dead Monday in Simmons’ house. She was killed along with Sylvia; her husband, Dennis McNulty, 23; the suspect’s 23-year-old son William H. Simmons; and his wife, Renada Simmons, 22.
Besides Becky Simmons, those found dead Tuesday included a son and three daughters who had been living at Simmons’ home in the Pleasant Grove community about 13 miles north of Russellville: Loretta, 17; Eddie, 14; Marianne, 11; and Rebecca, 8, authorities said.
Two children found stuffed in garbage bags in car trunks were 21-month-old Michael McNulty and William Simmons Jr., 20 months, authorities said.
Mrs. Nesby said Simmons physically abused his wife, but Mrs. Simmons would not leave him. The couple’s seven children tried to protect her during the beatings, her sister said.
Wilma Simmons of Alamogordo, whose ex-husband Ronald Gene Simmons Jr., 27, of San Antonio, Texas, and daughter Barbara, 3, were found dead Tuesday, told the El Paso newspaper her former father-in-law was a recluse.
She said he often stayed in his bedroom alone to avoid contact with his family, and when she met him during a two-week vacation in Arkansas in 1984, she was the only person in the house he would talk to.
Simmons maintained a silence under questioning by police Tuesday, but spoke to court-appointed defense attorneys.
Attorney John C. Harris said he had ″a real nice conversation″ with Simmons, adding, ″It appears that he will be able to assist in his defense.″
Defense attorney Robert E. ″Doc″ Irwin said he and Harris would file motions today asking Pope County Circuit Court to suppress information that police gathered regarding the deaths at the Simmons home, because the evidence was obtained without a search warrant.
Bolin said Simmons’ only response to officers was when they asked about his family. ″All we could get out of him then was his bottom lip would quiver,″ the sheriff said.
Simmons and his wife met at a United Service Organizations dance, said Mrs. Nesby. ″She was a beautiful girl, she had her pick and she picked that thing.″
She said some relatives were traveling to Arkansas to help identify the bodies, which Bolin said were taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Little Rock.
The dead in Monday’s shooting spree were Kathy Kendrick, a 24-year-old legal secretary said to have spurned Simmons’ advances, and J.D. Chaffin, 33, an employee of Taylor Oil Co., one of four businesses - three of them former workplaces of Simmons’ - where shots were fired.