South Carolina mom, Suzanna Simpson, woke up at 4 a.m., put on a headband with a small light, worked the combination on husband’s gun safe, shot him, their daughter and son as they slept
Couple’s 7-year-old daughter Carly and 5-year-old son Sawyer killed, husband Mike Simpson, wheel chair bound, still has bullet lodged in his skull, suffered near total short-term memory loss
She entered an insanity plea, jury ruled she was in control when stealthly retrieving and loading gun then shooting husband first to prevent his helping the kids
Suzanna Simpson received two consecutive life sentences on two counts of murder, 30 years on attempted murder and 5 years on possession of a weapon during the commission of violent crime.
Suzanna Simpson: Two consecutive life sentences for killing her two young children and attempting to kill her husband
A jury found Suzanna Simpson, 38, guilty of the shooting deaths of her two young children Thursday along with the attempted murder of her husband.
Circuit Judge Brian Gibbons immediately handed down the harshest sentence he could, saying Simpson deserved it. In passing the sentence Gibbons said:
“I cannot imagine a worse scenario than what I’ve heard here this week,” Gibbons said.
In court, an emotional Mike Simpson who is suffering almost total short-term memory loss from injuries sustained in the murder attempt cried as his wife was sentenced to life in prison for killing their children in their South Carolina home. Suzanna Simpson killed the children, shooting 7-year-old daughter Carly and 5-year-old Sawyer in the head, while they slept. He has one of the bullets fired still in his skull which has led to the memory loss.
All through the proceedings, Mike Simpson, in a wheelchair dabbed away tears as his mother Allison Simpson, told the judge he was an amazing fighter, who survived not just the gunshot to his head, but the unimaginable grief of losing his kids and having his life stolen from him. “His whole family has been taken away from him,” she said.
Suzanna Simpson who told a psychiatrist she thought the whole family would be reincarnated in a better world has had a lifelong batlle with bi-polar disorder. She had spent spent six days in the hospital for severe mental illness a year before the murders and her doctor urged her husband to lock his guns in a safe.
One year later, the guns were in the safe, when she woke up at 4 a.m., put on a headband with a small light, opened the combination on the gun safe and ambushed her husband Mike, daughter Carly and son Sawyer as they slept. The safe had been opened and five or six guns were laying on the floor, along with an assortment of ammunition, when the deputy arrived to find the bodies.
She later claimed that she tried to kill herself too but loaded the wrong ammunition in the gun.
The South Carolina mom showed little emotion at the sentencing, mouthing “bye” to her family as she walked out of court. Psychiatrists said she is on medication to treat bipolar disorder and other conditions.
Her lawyer, John Mauldin, said in his closing statement that society must start doing better with its most vulnerable people.
“We’ve got to stop turning our back on mental illness,” Mauldin said. “We’ve got to start somewhere.”
The prosecutors said there are clues that show that while she was mentally ill, she knew what she was doing. She wore the headlamp and loaded the gun in the laundry room to not wake anyone up. She shot her husband first so he couldn’t save the kids. After loading the gun right fto kill her family , she managed to put in the wrong ammunition when it was time to kill herself.
“She might not have been able to control herself,” prosecutor Betty Strom said. “But she knew what she was doing was wrong.”
Strom pointed out people with mental illness can still hold jobs and raise a family, Simpson herself had worked at a bank for years, the kids were well taken care of as their school reported.
Simpson was first was diagnosed with depression in college, and her mental illness seemed to worsen after having children. Psychiatrist Jeff Smith who started treating her in 2010, saw her 34 times in three years. The last time was in February 2013, when he said she appeared in great shape and scheduled a follow up in four months. The killings happened three months later.
“In my 26 years of practice, I have never had anything surprise me as much as this case did,” Smith said.
The authorities are trying to figure out a moyive for the killings. Prosecutors pointed out that she told family members her husband has said “it was over” because she couldn’t properly take care of her children. Her lawyer said Simpson was hearing voices, so no explanation is going to make sense.
There was mild drama for the jurors when less than two hours into their deliberations, the jury asked the judge to explain the difference between guilty and guilty but mentally ill, causing the judge to read his charge again.
Although the case qualifies for the death penalty, the state did not seek capital punishment. The jury found her, guilty of the shooting deaths of her two children and the attempted murder of her husband.
Defense attorney Maudlin immediately asked the judge to throw out the verdict since the jury showed apparently did not account for the fact that his client was mentally ill. All four psychiatrist who testified said she suffered from serious illnesses that require medication. Gibbons refused.