On December 7, 1995, between 6 and 7 pm, Shawn K. Simmons’ neighbour heard shouting next door. Considering that Mr. Simmons led a quiet life, the shouting was unusual. In fact, it was so unusual that it made her open the bi-fold door to the furnace area to hear what was being said in the apartment next door.
“Stop, what are you doing? You’re hurting me… stop it. Don’t do that.”
And then…it was silent in the apartment.
On Friday, December 8, 1995, around 5 p.m., Mr. Shawn K. Simmons was found dead in his apartment on 1701 Gentry Square #101, in Champaign, IL, USA. Mr. Simmons was found by the apartment manager who had gone to look for him after speaking on the phone with Mr. Simmons’ boss. Mr. Simmons had not shown up for work that day.
When the apartment manager came to check on Mr. Simmons, she noticed that there were no foot prints in the fresh snow leading up to Mr. Simmons’ apartment. Nobody had left the apartment that morning. When police arrived, there was only one set of footprints, from the apartment manager.
The apartment manager saw that Mr. Simmons’ front door was locked. She used her master key to let herself in. All the lights were out in the apartment. She turned on the hallway lights and went upstairs. She found Mr. Simmons in the bedroom and called the police.
Mr. Simmons was laying face down on the floor next to the bed in the upstairs bedroom. His hands were tied behind his back with a brown electric extension cord. The autopsy later showed that this was done postmortem. His face was black with lividly in the neck, face, and shoulders. Officers noted a possible ligature mark in the neck. A curtain had been used to blindfold Mr. Simmons.
The autopsy showed no rectal lacerations but did show some soft tissue hemorrhage between the bladder and the rectum although both organs were intact. The autopsy also showed signs of manual strangulation and some contusions to the back of the head. There was also an abrasion in the mid back area of the neck.
The estimated time of death in the autopsy report was around 6:40 p.m. The autopsy further showed that Mr. Simmons had spaghetti in his stomach. It later turned out that was what he had for lunch, indicating, he never ate dinner.
The apartment was full of boxes since Mr. Simmons was moving out on 22 December 1995. On the bed, police found a jewelry box. It looked like someone had gone through it. One half of a friendship necklace was found amongst the boxes in the living room. Strangely enough, stereo equipment found in the hallway as well as checks and a wallet found in the living room appeared untouched.
It was very hard to believe that this death was the result of a robbery gone bad! But that was exactly what someone hoped police would see. Alas, it was all too obvious that this was a personalized attacked by someone known to Mr. Simmons. Remember the friendship necklace that was torn in half and that was found amongst the boxes in the living room?
It didn’t take police long to fill in the gaps. Mr. Simmons’ car had disappeared from the parking lot and after some searching it was found in Quincy, IL. It was driven there by a former lover who after some probing admitted that the shouting heard by Mr. Simmons’ neighbour, did in fact take place and in his presence. He told police that he was having sex with Mr. Simmons on the stairs on the way up to the bedroom.
The former lover made up a story about great sex, a lovely dinner of baked potatoes together, falling asleep in each others arms, and Mr. Simmons’ waving him good bye the next morning. Remember that the autopsy showed that Mr. Simmons only had his lunch (spaghetti) in his stomach and there were no signs of potatoes.
A bar owner in Quincy, IL, told police that this lover had told him Mr. Simmons died in his presence, in fact, his words were “I killed Shawn.” The man did not elaborate any further but did add that he had tied Shawn up with electrical cord and had put packing tape over his mouth. The bar owner signed an affidavit but it seems the prosecution never used it.
On December 19, 1995, the former lover was read his rights. A signed copy is in the file. What followed then is a string of police reports. They checked where Mr. Simmons car was, did background checks on the former lover, spoke with employers, colleagues, parents, relatives, church members, and friends. Police pieced together a very sad story of the former lover’s life as a married man struggling to admit his homosexuality.
During various interrogations, the former lover came up with a great love story and an upcoming wedding for which Mr. Simmons supposedly had bought wedding rings. The date? April fool’s Day 1996. Alas, upon checking financial statements and searching the apartment with a fine tooth comb, neither ring not receipt was found. When asked around, many people knew Mr. Simmons last lover but they also immediately stated not to know of any impending marriage. They did hint at the fact that Mr. Simmons had broken up with this lover shortly before their anniversary on 19th August. Apparently, Mr. Simmons wanted to keep their homosexual relationship a secret. They got back together again around their anniversary.
The last report dated March 12, 1997, states “the state’s attorney’s office is not going to charge this case. There are no further leads in this case. The case is inactive.”
And this was the moment where my mouth dropped…
The former lover’s statement about the night Mr. Simmons died is full of gaps and is provably wrong. Hard evidence is needed, yes, but it is not impossible.
So what happened to Mr. Simmons? This is what I think happened:
Mr. Simmons let in his lover some time on December 7, 1995. Around 6:30pm, they started to have sex and were on their way up to the bedroom. On the stairs, they had switched positions but Mr. Simmons was experiencing pain and told his lover to stop. That was the discussion the former lover admitted to and what the neighbour heard. Maybe the lover did not believe Mr. Simmons was experiencing pain. Maybe he was cross that he was, in his own words, always the receiver. He may have gotten angry…
It is possible that he lost control and manually strangled Mr. Simmons. Since Mr. Simmons was lying on his back on the stairs he may have gotten some contusion to the left of his back of his head this way. The autopsy showed signs of manual strangulation and some contusions to the back of the head. The autopsy also showed abrasions in the mid back area of his neck. These abrasions were photographed as well. It would be interesting to see whether they matched the step pattern in the apartment. The screaming had, of course, stopped by now.
Realizing what he had done, the lover brought Mr. Simmons upstairs to the bedroom. There, he might have tried to strangle Mr. Simmons once again but now with an electric cord to make sure he was dead. He tied his hands and tossed some items in the room to make it look like a robbery gone bad. Remember the jewelry box on the bed?
I do not believe that this lover intentionally murdered Mr. Simmons. It happened during an argument that resulted in a physical altercation that went violent when the lover was overtaken by rage. The fact that he tried to cover up by staging a robbery makes perfect sense since the apartment was full of boxes. Remember, Mr. Simmons was going to move.
I am certain that this lover has been shattered by what has happened and hopeful that some day, he will come forward to tell the truth, the whole truth, and this time, nothing but the truth.
And we will hope that this time, the prosecution is listening as well!
If you have any information about this case, call the Champaign Police Department at 217.351.4545.