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1987Russellville, AR

Christmas is supposed to be a merry time. A time of holiday cheer where children laugh and play. People sit by the Christmas tree opening presents, drinking hot cocoa, and eating cookies. Kids are out of school. Adults are out of work. It’s a time when everyone can relax and enjoy the company of others.

Not for Ronald Gene Simmons Sr., though. Christmas of 1987 was when he decided that he had had enough of his current life and decided that it was time to do something about it. Permanently.

This is MONSTERS

Ronald Simmons

Ronald Gene Simmons Sr. (no relation to that guy from KISS) dropped out of school at 17-years-old and joined the United States Navy. His first duty station was what is now Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, Washington. Just a side note, that’s the town I grew up in. While training in San Diego, he met Bersabe Rebecca Ulibarri, who went by Becky. The couple got married in 1960 and would go on to have seven children.

In 1963, after six years in the Navy, Simmons took a two year break from the military before joining the United States Air Force. He spent another 14 years in the service, serving in the Vietnam war and gaining the rank of Master Sergeant before retiring in 1979.

I couldn’t find any confirmation of where Simmons was stationed during his time in the Air Force, but he was most likely at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico when he retired. It’s reported that he was well known in the town of Cloudcroft New Mexico, about 30 miles or 48 kilometers from Holloman Air Force Base.

It’s said that Simmons was feared in Cloudcroft. A friend of his daughter’s said that he always had a beer in his hand and that he spent his time in one dark room that was spooky and stunk. Other people who came in contact with him said he would sometimes respond to a friendly inquiry with nothing but a glare.

In 1981, Simmons’ son, Ronald Simmons Jr. informed the local social services that his father had been having a sexual relationship with one of his daughters, 17-year-old Sheila Simmons. Some of Sheila’s friends from school confirmed that she had told them about the relationship. Authorities said that she was obviously pregnant when the situation came to their attention.

Becky’s family members said that this was when Simmons started distancing his wife from her family. His obsession became more aggressive and he began secluding her. She eventually wasn’t allowed to leave the house without him. She wasn’t allowed to drive even though she was perfectly capable of doing so. The children were not allowed to socialize with other kids. They weren’t even allowed to walk to the school bus stop, he would drive them there and pick them up when they got home.

Ronald Gene Simmons with his daughter Sheila

The district attorney said he had trouble prosecuting the case because Sheila refused to testify against her father. It wasn’t until they threatened to hold her in contempt of court that she finally agreed to cooperate. She testified against her father and he was indicted on incest charges in August of 1981.

When deputies arrived at his home to arrest him, the entire family was gone. Simmons picked up and moved his entire family out of state. His name was entered into an FBI database that would alert authorities if he got in any other trouble anywhere else in the country, but that never happened. At least not for the year that he was in the FBI’s system.

The Simmons family ended up just north of Dover, Arkansas, where Ronald Simmons Sr. bought 13-acres of secluded property and lived in two old mobile homes that were connected together to make one bigger house. The house didn’t have telephone service or indoor plumbing. He also built a makeshift brick fence that some people said was as high as 10 feet or a little over 3 meters in some places.

Not long after they moved to Dover, Sheila had a daughter who she named Sylvia. She eventually married a man named Dennis McNulty and they had a son named Michael.

Gene Simmons with his familySimmons worked a handful of low-paying jobs in the nearby town of Russellville. He quit working for Woodline Motor Freight after being reported multiple times for inappropriate sexual advances. He worked at Sinclair mini mart for about a year and a half before quitting on December 18th, 1987.

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Becky’s family said they tried to convince her to leave Simmons, but she never got the chance. They believe that she was trying to save money so she could file for divorce and he must have found out. They believe that might be what set into motion the events of that holiday season.

On December 22nd, Simmons went to a local Walmart and purchased a .22 caliber handgun. He returned home where he bludgeoned his son 26-year-old Ronald Jr. before shooting him. He then shot his wife, Becky. Finally, he strangled his 3-year-old daughter, Barbara.

He dragged the bodies into the backyard where he had had his children dig a pit for a new outhouse weeks earlier. He then sat in the house and waited for his other children to get home from school. It was their last day of school before their Christmas break.

When the kids arrived, Simmons told them that he had gotten them each a present, but he needed to give it to them one at a time. First, he took 17-year-old Loretta to the backyard where he strangled her and held her head under the water in a rain barrel. He then put her body in the pit with the others. He continued this process with 14-year-old Eddy, 11-year-old Marianne, and eight-year-old Becky.

Ronald Simmons

It’s unknown what Simmons did for the next few days, but on December 26th, his old children and their families were expected to arrive at the house for an after christmas dinner. The first to arrive was his second oldest son, 22-year-old Billy, his wife, 21-year-old Renata, and their 20-month old son Trae. Simmons shot both Billy and Renata and drowned Trae. He covered the bodies of the adults with coats and then he placed Trae’s body into the trunk of a car that was sitting in the back of the property.

When Sheila, now 24 and her husband, 33-year-old Dennis arrived with 6-year-old Sylvia and 21-month-old Michael, they met a similar fate. Sheila and Dennis were shot, Sylvia was strangled, and Michael was either strangled or drowned. It is reported both ways in different publications. Like Trae, he wrapped Michael in plastic and placed him in the trunk of a different car. He lined up all of the bodies of both families across the living room floor, covered them with coats and covered Sheila’s body with a tablecloth. Then he went out and ran some errands.

He picked up some christmas presents that had been ordered from a local Sears, but hadn’t come in in time for the holiday. He stopped by a local bar and had a few drinks, then he headed back home. There, he sat on the couch, with seven bodies laying across his living room and seven bodies in a pit in his backyard, and watched television. It was Saturday and apparently the next part of his plan had to wait until a weekday.

On Monday December 28th, Simmons drove Ronald Jr.’s car to the nearby town of Russellville and entered a law office of Peel, Eddy and Gibbon where 24-year-old Kathy Kendrick worked as a receptionist. Kathy had previously ignored sexual advances made by Simmons, so he decided that she was responsible for all of his problems. He unloaded his pistol into her head and killed her.

Ronald Simmons children

Simmons went to the Taylor Oil Company, where he had previously worked. He shot and killed JD Chaffin and wounded the company owner, Rusty Taylor, who also owned the Sinclair Mini Mart that Simmons had recently quit working. He attempted to shoot bookkeeper Juli Money (The bookkeeper’s name was Juli Money… You can’t even make this stuff up), but he just barely missed her head. She dove to the floor and Simmons left. She recalled “I believe that he thought that he hit me and that’s why he left.”

Simmons’ next stop was to the Sinclair Mini Mart where he shot two employees, Roberta Woolery and David Salyer, who survived the attack. A customer who was in the store ducked behind a shelf and started throwing cans of Coke at the assailant, which apparently drove him off.

Finally, he went to Woodline Motor Freight Company where he shot his former supervisor, Joyce Butts, in the head and chest though she miraculously lived. Butts was his supervisor when he had worked there years prior. Kathy Kendrick had also worked there at the time and Butts had scolded him for making unwanted advances toward Kendrick. 

After shooting Joyce, Simmons took worker Vicky Jackson at gunpoint into an office and told her to call the police. He told Jackson, “I’ve come to do what I wanted to do. It’s all over now. I’ve gotten everybody who wanted to hurt me.”

Everybody who wanted to hurt him? He obviously was one of those delusional people who thought that just because he didn’t always get his way, that meant everyone was out to get him. Newsflash: sometimes people aren’t going to do what you want, you just have to get over it.

Ronald Simmons

Simmons calmly sat in the office, chatting with Vicky Jackson until the police arrived. He handed over his weapon and was taken into custody without incident. He was taken to a psychiatric facility in Little Rock, Arkansas for a competency evaluation. Dr. Irving Kuo found Simmons mentally able to stand trial.

Police searched his home where they found the bodies in the house, the bodies in the pit and the two child’s bodies in each car trunk. They took two hammer, a crowbar and several small lengths of rope they believe might have been used to bludgeon or strangle the victims.

Authorities also found a letter Simmons has written to his daughter Sheila in a safe deposit box in a bank in Russellville. He had written the letter after Sheila had agreed to testify against him back in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Part of the letter read, “You have destroyed me, and you have destroyed my trust in you… I will see you in Hell.” When the judge ruled the letter was admissible in court, Simmons attacked the prosecutor and tried to grab a deputy’s gun, but was unsuccessful.

Sheila Simmons

Ronald Gene Simmons Sr. was found guilty of 14 counts of capital murder and was sentence to death by lethal injection plus 147 years. He was sentenced for the murders of his family and since the other two murders and the numerous attempted murder happened in a different juristiction, he would have had to go to trial for those seperately. Since he was given the death penalty on top of over 100 years in prison, there was no reason to make the other victim go through the stress of a trial.

He waived his right to appeal his death sentence which ultimately delayed his execution. Some were concerned that him waiving his right to appeal showed that he wasn’t competent to waive his right to appeal. The motion was denied by the supreme court and Simmons’ death warrant was signed by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton on May 31st, 1990.

Ronald Gene Simmons was executed by lethal injection on June 25th, 1990.

You can also see this story presented in this YouTube video.



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