Erwin Simants

Erwin Charles Simants

Location:
1020 S. Dewey Street, North Platte, Nebraska, United States
HQ Phone:
(308) 534-6740

General Information

Experience

Lincoln Regional Center

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Public Defender Bob Lindemeier, who has defended Simants in that capacity for 18 years, requested a continuance because he was out of the state at the time.
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 morning, 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. Simants 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. Simants rarely attends the hearings and did not attend Wednesday's hearing in Lincoln County District Court. Lindemeier has argued that Simants doesn't meet the standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court to remain in custody and, at some point, he would "ethically have to take that up with the court." That was a shot over the bow that Lindemeier might someday appeal to a higher court than Rowlands' to have Simants released from the confines of the LRC forensic unit. Simants 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. 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. Also, Simants' 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. He can now leave the center with seven other inmates and two supervisory personnel. 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. Defending Simants hasn't made Lindemeier, who by all accounts is a compassionate man, many friends. "I get hate mail all the time," he said. Lindemeier said Simants has become "institutionalized" and would not be able to function in the world on his own. He said he would like to see Simants in a less supervised setting but with some kind of monitoring involved. The only surviving Kellie family member comments The 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 30 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.

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Simants to remain in custody
Tell North Platte what you think by The North Platte Bulletin - 12/15/2016 Courtesy Photo­Image Erwin Charles Simants, circa 1990. Erwin Charles Simants is still a danger and will remain at the Lincoln Regional Center for at least another year, Lincoln County District Judge Donald Rowlands ruled Thursday. Simants killed six people in Sutherland in 1975. Four years later, after protracted trials, he was found not guilty of the murders by reason of insanity. He was sent to the regional center and has been confined there since. His status is reviewed each year. "The court again finds by clear and convincing evidence that Erwin Charles Simants is and continues to be mentally ill and dangerous to others by reason of mental illness," Rowlands said Thursday, "and that he will continue to be dangerous in the foreseeable future as demonstrated by the overt acts of Oct. 18, 1975." Simants has caused no trouble in the regional center and is virtually a model prisoner, according to court reports. He gets out twice a month for therapeutic purposes. He has caused no safety concerns, has not engaged in aggressive behavior and functions well in all respects, maintaining a cooperative, positive and hopeful attitude, according to a regional center report. Some excursions In addition to therapeutic excursions, Simants can also leave the center four times a year on visits with family members, but not for more than eight hours at a time. Possibly in the coming year, the department of corrections will move Simants into a new secure residence that is being built on the grounds, Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling said. The regional center report said if and when Simants moves into the new building, they want him to get out more often for meetings that are designed to prevent the dangers of relapse. If he is allowed additional outings with family, he must wear a GPS monitor anklet unless accompanied by someone on the staff. The report says the new residence will allow Simants to engage in more "transitional-type activities" in both prison and the community. The new program allows more opportunities for his relapse prevention plan, and encourages him to acclimate to community living, build a supportive network and practice problem-solving outside the controlled environment, the report said, which would prepare him for less supervision in the future. Simants did not appear Thursday for the hearing. But Simants has reservations about moving, Lindemeier said. Simants has not had a roommate for 40-some years and all the people who are going to be there have mental problems, Lindemeier noted. Simants admits his many years of hospitalization cause him to tackle new and different tasks with reluctance, as his self-confidence and eagerness to explore new opportunities has eroded during his confinement. Ruling Rowlands granted the prison's request to transfer Simants from the Forensic Mental Health Services unit to the residential program, but only if Simants agrees.

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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.Simants 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 forensic unit.Simants 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.The caseOn 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.Simants 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.Also, Simants' 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 doLindemeier has been defending Simants for 15 years as the Lincoln County public defender.Defending Simants 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.

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