The Sims Family: 1966-2016

The Sims Family Murders/Grid AdSThe Sims Family Murders (Tallahassee, Florida) are Case of the Month for October as this year marks the 50th anniversary of their unsolved homicides.

We lost Robert Wilson Sims (Aug. 24, 1924 – Oct. 22, 1966), Helen Sollie Sims (Feb. 23, 1932 – Oct. 31, 1966), and Joy Lynn Sims (Mar. 5, 1954 – Oct. 22, 1966).

When I started reading about this case a few things immediately bothered me:

1: It reminded me of the Zeigler case. Why? Because too many people in the building messed up the crime scene that could have given us the answers we still seek. Because there does not seem to be any FBI profiling available in either of these cases. It would be interesting to know from the FBI how many people/killers were involved in these crimes.

2: The case screams for a review with modern technology. If we still have the materials used to gag, blind, and bind the family we should use the M-Vac to see if we can find touch DNA. They were instrumental in the Beslanowitch case. All three Sims were restrained with household items such as neckties, socks, pantyhose, or lingerie. When you tie a knot and pull your hands leave touch DNA on the materials. That touch DNA can give us an idea who was (and was not) there at the crime scene. Especially worthy of examining with the M-Vac would be the identical granny knots. If you are not clear what a Granny knot is check this link.

3: I found discrepancies in the reporting about the victims:

Robert was bound (no place mentioned where he was found other than the bedroom in general), gagged and stabbed but still alive (link here) OR he had one close range head shot (link hereOR he was lying on top of a flowered bedspread (so a specific place inside the bedroom) on the couple’s king-sized bed and was shot (unspecified where he was shot) see link here.

Helen had head trauma, leg wounds, was bound, gagged and stabbed, but was still alive (link here) OR she was shot three times (twice in the head and once in the leg) (link here) with one of the bullets in her brain so deeply lodged that ultimately it could not be extracted. She was later placed on a respirator, fell into a coma, and passed away.

Joy was found on the floor next to her mother in the master bedroom. She was bound by the ankles and her wrists, gagged, shot, and stabbed multiple times in the chest area (link here) OR she was shot once in the head and stabbed six times in the torso with a large hunting or butcher knife (link here) OR bound, gagged, stabbed three times in the abdomen and three times in her leg (unspecified whether stabbed in her left or right leg) see link here.

4: I have not been able to find anything about test results from finger nail scrapings.

5: An autopsy report should be able to shed light on the question whether Joy was sexually abused or not.

Never underestimate the effect that these unsolved crimes have on us who work in the criminal justice field. One man who fought in court to get justice for victims is former Florida Assistant State Attorney Jeremy A. Mutz. As this month is the 50th anniversary of the Sims Murders, I asked him to write a guest blog post. Here he is in his own words.

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Tallahassee’s Worst Murder
By Jeremy A. Mutz

To me this case is one of the saddest things I have every encountered. I think about what the Sims’ went through, especially little Joy. And I think about what Dr. Sims must have thought when he realized he could not protect his family. No man wants to ever feel helpless that way. And so when I learned about the case I felt that I owed it to them to fight for them. I spent more than a year trying to see the case fully investigated by local authorities. On July 25, 2016, I was fired by Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs despite my efforts.

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On Saturday, October 22, 1966, at about a quarter ‘til eleven a family was murdered in Tallahassee. On Saturday, October 22, 2016 Tallahassee will mark the fiftieth anniversary of these awful murders. The case is known around these parts simply as “the Sims murders” or “the Sims case.” Officially it remains unsolved. It is, without doubt, Tallahassee’s worst murder.

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“They were the nicest family I ever knew.”

That was what the Sims’ neighbors said.  And Dr. Sims’s students.

In fact, that is what everyone said about Robert and Helen and their three girls. No one had anything bad to say about the Mississippians.

Yet, there they lay, executed.  Dr. and Mrs. Sims and their youngest child.

It was a ghastly scene. Tallahassee Police Sergeant. E.C. “Cooper” Donley—the first detective to arrive—entered the back bedroom just before midnight, October 22, 1966. It was a horror worse than any he’d ever seen. The policeman beheld them there, a father and his child struck down and left on display by the hand of their killer… or killers. The Sims… Robert and twelve-year-old Joy, he learned. They were bound hand and foot, both shot in the head. And the little girl had been stabbed six times in the chest.

Donley could see, immediately, a few clues to the motivation of this crime. Nothing in the house was disturbed. Nothing was missing.

Most of the killer’s anger had been directed at the child. Little Joy’s t-shirt was pulled up; the killer had thrust the knife into her heart. Her underwear had been pulled down. Her right cheek was marked where someone had slugged her.

Her eyes were open, looking out at him. 

They were a clear blue. 

They seemed to say, “Solve this! Don’t forget about me!” 

In the fall of 1966 the local newspaper was filled with daily accounts of progress in the investigation of this triple homicide. Today, the case is cold—like the bite of mid-January air in this part of Florida. Yet it is a solvable crime.

The killers are still alive. 

There are witnesses that can still testify. 

New information was gathered in 2015 and 2016. 

One of the suspects has posted comments about the case online, and given an interview for a documentary film, which contradict his earlier statements to police. 

Ask anyone over the age of fifty who grew up in Tallahassee and they can tell you precisely where they were and what they were doing the day they learned of the murder of the Sims family. It is much like the assassination of President Kennedy for the same generation, or Pearl Harbor, or 9-11 for generations before or later. Ask a Tallahassee native and they will tell you about their father guarding their door with a shotgun, or their mother taking them to school the following Monday, or their grandfather locking the doors for the first time in their memory. Such was the impact of the tragedy known as “the Sims case.”

A father, mother, and child were executed in their own home. It wasn’t a robbery. It wasn’t drug-related. The Sims’ had no enemies. They were a typical family in a typical middle-class neighborhood. No one could discern a reason for what happened. That made the case all the more terrifying—that someone could murder three people and not disturb as much as a piece of furniture and then get away without a trace, like a ghost.

Florida State beat Mississippi State 10-0 that night. It was a typical fall night when it began. A nightmare when the city awoke to the headlines Sunday morning. The crime jarred the small, innocent college town. Vestiges of the innocence of that town are still present and relatable to everyone who goes to a football game today, carefree, enjoying life in a town that still offers a slower pace, a sense of small town hospitality, where it’s good to raise a family. But Tallahassee was never the same. The fall of 1966 was a time where people really did know everyone, kids could walk downtown by themselves to see a movie, play until it got dark; one of the Sims’ neighbors didn’t even have a door knob on their front door.

That next morning people cleaned the shelves of deadbolts and chain locks. Tallahassee grew up that day. In one night, the city lost much of its innocence.

One thought, especially frightened residents that morning: It could have been my family.  It could have been anyone. It seemed so random. No one was safe.

The father, Dr. Robert Sims, might have been another Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. He was that good. He was a computer expert in a day where computers were as rare as hen’s teeth. Our nation was robbed of Sims’ ideas, his expertise, and his vision. The mother, Helen Sims, was stolen from her two surviving daughters and our community lost a sweet and beautiful person. A woman who lived to care for her family and serve her church. A woman who modeled hair styles and fashions for local stores, taught Sunday school, and played the piano at church. The child, Joy Sims, never got to graduate high school, go to college, get married, and have children of her own. Her classmates had to grow up without their friend. Her sisters’ would never again sing hymns with her in their little church trio. The killers got to enjoy their birthdays, their time off, and their freedom these past fifty years.

The victims were wonderful people. Our community is much to the worse for their absence. So many want to know why they were taken from us.

Jeremy A. MutzAuthor Bio:

I am a graduate of FSU College of Law. I was, until July, a state prosecutor. I served in that capacity for more than 12 years, trying just about everything from driving without a license and harvesting undersized oysters up to first degree murders.

In my last position I served as a division chief, leading the misdemeanor and traffic unit in Leon County. I supervised anywhere from 3 to 5 other attorneys plus as many as 4 law school interns at a time. I held that post for twenty months.

I am a published fiction author. Currently I am writing a second novel and coaching a trial team at FSU.

In June 2015, I was authorized by State Attorney Willie Meggs to look into the Sims case. I provided him with several case analysis memos and multiple witness statements on the case in 2015 and early 2016.  I presented him with multiple recommendations to forward the case. When he formed a task force for the case in January, 2016 he asked me to assist. He himself stated that he believed we had enough to indict the suspects. In April 2016, he killed the task force.

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Note: the resources listed below are just the tip of the iceberg. I have not been able to read more materials because I was sick. However, I wanted to get this post out and scheduled for October 1st as Case of the Month.

Thank you for your understanding.

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Resources

WCTV

Find-a-Grave for Dr. R. Sims

Find-a-Grave for Helen Sollie Sims

Find-a-Grave for Joy Lynn Sims

Tallahassee Democrat

WTXL

Ocala Star Banner

Tampa Bay Times

Jeremy A. Mutz

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In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old cold cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis. Often more information can be found online or in newspaper archives. The goal of these posts is to get the cases back in the spotlights, to get people talking again, and if anything to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are cold does not mean that we can forget about them.

If you have any thoughts about this case then I encourage you to post them on your own social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc.) Every time that we mention Robert, Helen, and Joy’s name online we enhance their digital footprint.

We must make sure that the Sims Family keep up their web presence if we ever wish to find answers in their case. You can help by linking to or sharing this post.

Thank you for remembering Robert, Helen, and Joy Sims with us.

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  1. […] residents, leaving them wondering who was on the loose and whether they were going to strike again. The Sims were an everyday family with nothing in their current lives, employment or backgrounds that gave […]