Simmons Fled N.M. After Incest Indictment, Former DA Says With AM-Multiple Killings
CLOUDCROFT, N.M. (AP) _ A man linked to the slayings of 16 people in Arkansas fled his home here in 1981 after being indicted on incest charges for allegedly impregnating a teen- age daughter, a former prosecutor said Wednesday.
Steven Sanders, former Otero County district attorney, said sheriff’s deputies planned to arrest R. Gene Simmons Sr. on Aug. 11, 1981, the day the indictment was handed up, but arrived at the home 20 miles outside of Cloudcroft to find the family had moved away.
Simmons, 47, arrested after a shooting rampage Monday in Russellville, Ark., and accused of killing 14 relatives and two other people, had lived with his family in New Mexico from 1977 to 1981.
Sanders said Sheila Simmons McNulty, age 24 when slain at her father’s house outside Russellville, was 16 years old and pregnant when her father was charged with three counts of incest.
Relatives have said the family believes Simmons fathered Sheila’s daughter, Sylvia. The 6-year-old girl was also among those killed.
Sanders said he could not disclose grand jury testimony, but that Sheila told him outside the courtroom she became pregnant by her father. However, he said, she remained loyal to her father and had to be ordered by the court to testify before the grand jury.
The charges were dropped in 1982 when Simmons could not be located.
Cloudcroft resident Pat Hiller and other former acquaintances of the Simmons family describe the retired Air Force master sergeant as a strange man who kept his family isolated.
Ms. Hiller said her daughter was best friends with Sheila when the girls were seniors at Cloudcroft High School. She described Sheila as a straight-A student who never took part in after-school activities.
″Her father wouldn’t let her,″ she said.
Ms. Hiller said her daughter was horrified when Sheila reported being pregnant by her father, and along with Ronald Gene Simmons Jr. tried to help.
″She went to the DA’s office. She went to a counselor. She went to the law office at Holloman (Air Force Base in Alamogordo) with the oldest boy, Gene. Nothing happened as far as we knew,″ she said.
Carol Nix, who works for the Cloudcroft school district, told the Albuquerque Tribune she had to enlist the help of a state legislator before criminal action was taken against Simmons.
Sanders said the indictment was dismissed because law enforcement officials had been unable to locate the family; the only witness was the daughter, who was uncooperative; and the charges could be refiled if he were found.
The dismissal, however, canceled the arrest warrant.
Because the arrest warrant was canceled, any information stored on the FBI’s National Crime Information Check computer was dropped, leaving no trace of Simmons’ flight from Otero County, said Bill Woltz, chief deputy with the county sheriff’s department.
The body of Gene Jr., a food service worker at Holloman, was found in a shallow grave outside Simmons’ home. His 3-year-old daughter, Barbara, also was killed.
His ex-wife, Wilma Simmons, recalled that her former father-in-law often stayed in his bedroom alone to avoid contact with his family.
She said her ex-husband hated his father for sexually abusing Sheila and she met Simmons only once, during a two-week vacation to Arkansas in 1984. She said she was the only person in the house he would talk to.
″He seemed like a very nice guy,″ she said. ″I just don’t know why he did this. He must have lost his marbles.″
Mrs. Simmons said she had planned to visit her ex-husband’s family in Arkansas for the Christmas holiday, but decided to stay with friends in Alamogordo.
″I’m the only remaining survivor,″ she said. ″I’m awfully glad I stayed home for Christmas.″