In a court decision issued September 12 and published exclusively in the North Platte Bulletin last week, Lincoln County District Judge Donald Rowlands ruled that the Lincoln Regional Center
has 120 days to recommend where Erwin Charles Simants
should be housed at the center.
could be moved to a facility at the LRC
with less restriction after the recommendation and Rowland's decision in three months.
That was a shot over the bow that Lindemeier might appeal to a higher court than Rowlands' to have Simants
released from the confines of the LRC
has been an ideal patient at the center and probably even knows where the keys are but has never acted on that knowledge, Lindemeier said.
Lindemeier said Simants
has no place to go and no means to take care of himself, but not to plan for his eventual release would not be fair to him or to the general public.
Rowlands ruled that his previous ruling on Simants
issued in October 2005 will stand until the LRC review, due in three months, is returned.
Anyone who says Simants
"will not receive additional freedoms" simply has not read Rowland's orders or Lindemeier's arguments.
On Oct. 18, 1975, Erwin Charles Simants
, then 29, walked across the street from his
house in Sutherland and killed six of his
neighbors in cold blood.Simants
murdered Henry Kellie, 66, his wife Audrey, 57, their granddaughter, Florence, 10, and two other grandchildren, Deanna, 7, and, Daniel, 5.
The next day, Simants
surrendered to authorities. Simants
stood trial for six counts of first-degree murder in January 1976.Testimony from 24 prosecution witnesses and 11 defense witnesses lasted a week. Simants
admitted killing the Kellies.
Defense lawyers argued Simants
was insane.A psychologist testified that Simants
had an IQ of 75 and was schizoid and psychotic.
The jury returned a verdict after deliberating only one day -- guilty on all six counts.
On Jan. 29, 1976, Lincoln County District Judge Hugh Stuart sentenced Simants
to death in the electric chair.
But in 1979, Simants
won a new trial on grounds of jury tampering.
pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.Defense lawyers stipulated that Simants
had murdered the Kellies but argued he
was insane at the time.
Prosecutors allowed a practicing psychologist to remain on the jury.
On Oct. 17, 1979, one day short of the fourth anniversary of the Kellie murders, the jury acquitted Simants
by reason of insanity. Simants
was sent to the forensic unit of the Lincoln Regional Center
, where he
has been ever since.
...The Nebraska Supreme Court
agreed that Simants
remained mentally ill and dangerous and left in place rulings that he
shouldn't be allowed to leave the regional center without one-on-one supervision and without notifying Lincoln law enforcement.
Each year Simants undergoes a mental evaluation and judicial review to determine if he
is sane enough to be granted more freedom or even released.The review is required under a 1981 state statute.
For years, Simants
was unable to even so much as go outside the Lincoln Regional Center
, but he
has gained more freedom in recent years. Two years ago, Simants was granted the right to actually leave the center once a week, only during daylight, with no more than six other inmates, under the direct supervision of the LRC staff who would have cell phones.
' picture is on file with the Lincoln police, the Lancaster Sheriff's office
and the Nebraska State Patrol.Staffers had to notify law enforcement when he was leaving the LRC, where he was going, when he would return and what he was wearing. Last year, Simants was granted permission to travel throughout the state but only accompanied by an LRC staff member and meeting all of the qualifications above.
Doctors who have examined Simants
recently have continued to recommend fewer restrictions on Simants
and more freedom.
Last year, Rowlands accepted the testimony of Simants
' psychiatrists Dr. Louis C. Martin and Dr. Y. Scott Moore that Simants
has been an exemplary patient for more than 25 years at the center, is not aggressive and has never sought to escape from the facilities or from any group outing.
The fact that Simants
will gain more freedom is inevitable.But what shape that freedom will take will be decided by the court.
Nothing another lawyer wouldn't do
Lindemeier has been defending Simants
for 15 years as the Lincoln County public defender.
hasn't made Lindemeier, who by all accounts is a compassionate man, many friends.
Lindemeier said Simants
has become "institutionalized" and would not be able to function in the world on his own.
Electronic monitoring of Simants
was discussed in the past but dismissed due to limitations at the time.
In his ruling released Sept. 12, Rowlands maintained that "there is clear and convincing evidence" that Simants
continues to be "mentally ill and dangerous to others" by reason of mental illness.
Rowlands ordered the LRC
to determine by December one or more options where Simants
could live on the LRC grounds.
Rowlands said the court would then tour the facilities and the decision on where Simants
would be placed could be made afterward.
Until the recommendation is made, Simants
will remain in the restictive LRC forensic unitl.
But it's no longer a matter of if Simants
will be released.Now it seems the only question is when.
The only surviving Kellie family member commentsThe only surviving member of the Henry Kellie family is resigned about the eventual release of Erwin Charles Simants.
With only two exceptions, Brown has attended every single mental health hearing held for Simants
in the last 27 years.
..."I guess at this point we have to do what's best for Simants but we also have to consider everyone else's safety," Brown said.