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July 27, 2011     Hays Free Press
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NEWS Hays Free Press July 27, 2011 + Page 6A Legal Battles: Alleged killer causes chaos in system Continued from pg. 1A at StevenWoelfel's residence in Buda, the future crime scene. Simmons describedWoelfel, as a fellow anti-government advocate who shared a distaste for former President George W.. Bush and the USA PATRIOT Act. He also asserted that they agreed on the theory that the government was somehow behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Simflaons' hostility toward the government predates 9 / 11, though. In 1997, Simmons was arrest- ed for possession of prohibited weapons in College Station when officers in an unmarked patrol car nabbed him as he buried a small arsenal of pistols, pipe bombs and silencers in holes near his home. When officers asked what he was doing, he replied that he was a radst and the "white race needed to start preparing for the [race] war," a police report filed within court records said. He served 10 years probation for the charges and finished the sentence in 2008. After that inddent, Simmons vowed that the government kept eyes on him, harassing him with low-flying U.S. military aircraft. Years of this scrutiny drove him to temporary insan- ity, Simmons said. "That was my state of mind at the time," be said from the jail's visitor area. "My mind just broke." Under this mindset, Sim- mons became jumpy and paranoid. He sought comfort In Woelfel, who held similar views, he says. "He despised these people, and so did I," he said of his alleged tormentors. "We were very outspoken about Bush and his wars and 9/11." UBINTI II ]IE=LL DFAI I About a week before fire- fighters discovemdWoelfel's burnt body, Simmons said that theywere In the laundry room, whereWoelfelwas packing for a trip to visit his girlfTiend. While the two men talked, Woelfel pulled a 9mm pistol from his bag and waved it in his direction, Simmons said. With the pistol in front of him, Simmons snatched it from his friend, picked up another hand- gun that was lying nearby and pointed it at his friend's head. The gun went off. "It hit him in the top of his head," Simmons recalled, show- ing no sign of emotion. "It was an instant death." Simmons said that the bther gun, a Browning .22 target pis- tol, had a hair-trigger and that he didn't mean to shoot WoelfeL "It had no safe ," he said. "If you touched it, it went off."' With his friend dead, Sim- mons pondered his next move for the better part of a week "I sat there for a while and thought about what to do," he said. "Nobody's going to believe this since I'm on the run." After contemplating his dilemma, Simmons decided his best bet was to get rid of any evidence that could be used to prove he was in the home. He dragged Woelfel's body to the garage along with the guest bedroom bedding and other items that he had touched dur- ing his visit. "I was trying to hide that I was there," he said. "I got somewhat desperate. I was very paranoid." On April 17, 2010, he lit candles and cut the gas lines to the stove. He then lit a fire in the detached garage and dm.ve away in his mother's car. As firefighters rolled onto the scene, a blast erupted from the house at 1132 Live Oak Loop when the burning candles ig- nited the leaked natural No one was injured, and Simmons denied that he intended to hurt anyone. He just wanted to de- stray the crime scene, he said. "if I was trying to do that I would have gone and bought propane cylinders and really saturated the room," he said. "The whole house would have been a bomb." IN HIS OWN WORDS Simrnon told his story during four inter- views conducted at the jail and in 26 CDs of audk~ recordings provided to the Hays Free Press. Podions of the recordings can be heard at haystreepress.com In late June 2010, police in Branson, Mo., discovered the stolen car at a motel where Simmons was staying. He said he was on his way to visit his 12-year-old daughter in Ten- ni~see. Dealing with a capital murder suspect, authorities encircled his room and an eight-and- a- half hour standoff ensued. Simmons eventually surren- dered without Incident and was extradited to Hays County Once in custody, the real battle for Simmons began. Since his arraignment in October 2010, his defense has filed as many as 80 motions, most in the form of handwritten letters Simmons wrote in jail. His case file has bulged into a third binder with papers and countless other letters, many in threatening, racist and sexist tangents. In December, Simmons' court-appointed attorney Tamara Needles filed motions suggesting incompetency and requested a mental examina- tion without his approval, he says. The motions were granted but when a psychiatrist at- tempted to Interview him, Sim- mons refused, records show. "I countered that with a motion of incompetency trial with jury and an expert of my choosing, required under state law," he said. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedures, Chapter 46B for incompetency to stand trial, af- firms that a defendant can wish to be examined by an expert of his choice. And if a competency trial goes forward at the request of either party or the motion of the court, a jury decides the issue of incompetency. Simmons was then granted permission to represent himself. after he filed another motion to dismiss Needles, who declined to commenL Later, Simmons says that 207th District Judge Jack RJabi- sen was untruthful in a pretrial hearing when he allegedly told the court he had no knowledge of a challenge to Simmons' incompetenc even though that motion had already been recorded. On June 3, 2011, Simmons . lodged a motion to recuse, or disqu , Robison, who even- tually removed himself frora the Ease. "He lied about it," Simmons said. "That's why he stepped down," Robison declined to shed any light on his decision saying that judges cannot comment on pending case First ?dsistant District At- tome,/Fred Weber, who is PHOTO BY SEAN I(JMMONS Buda firefu:jhters sift through the charred rubble of a garage at Steven Woelfel's home on live Oak Loop. Simmons admitted to putting Woelfel's body in the garage and starting the blaze on April 17, 2010., PHOTO BY SAM CLANTON/HOMETOWNDAILYNEWS,COM Branaon, Me., Police Clhief Caroll McCullough arrests Simmons follow- ing an eight and a half hlour standoff at the Walnut Lane Motel. Simmons agreed to surrender after being assured he would not be thrown to the ground dudng the arrestt. prosecuting the case, said he was unaware of why R, obison recused himself, an unmsual move in the judicial system. "He chose to mcus himself and did not give us a rtmson," Weber said. "There's a wariety of reasons why a judge cam recuse himself." Perhaps even more ]peculiar is the case's insanity defense, the first for Weber in ~ 16-year career as a prosecutor. "I've neverhad one,"Weber said. "Ifs very ra~." He recalled a few of his col- leagues in Tmvis County that dealt with insanity cases but hasn't seen one during his five years at I-Iays County. Weber didn't back off the In- competency issue and on June 30, the new judge, 428th District Judge Bill Henr approved the state's motion to examine Sim- mons again. This time around Simmons agreed and last week he was de- dared competent to stand trial by state psychiatrist Dr. Richard Coons. The report fortified the right for Simmons to be his own lawyer, although the court has appointed a standby attorney. "Mr. Simmons, along with many other U.S. dtizens, has an abiding distrust of the U.S. Government," Dr. Coons wrote. "He sees the Patriot Act as giving too much unwarranted author- ity to the govemment to spy on citizens." He further stated that Sim- mons does not have a mental illness and medications are not necessary to maintain compe- tenc~ according to the relSort. Shortly after his initial gun ~aid~e wasl4 years ago, Simmons mentally evaluated and labeled paranoid delusional. His mother also informed the Hays Free Press that her son was a paranoid schizophrenic not ctmently medicated. "I was no more delusional than I am now," countered Simmons, who says that he is perfectly sane. Whether insane or not, one thing for sure is that Simmons has created a ruckus in the local legal system He doesn't intend to stop. "I want to bring my case forward and talk to the jury," he said. "I think I can make them understand." JAILABU On top of his murder trial, Simmons has filed a civil law- suit in the U.S. Court of the Western District of Texas for al- leged unfair conditions at Hays County Jail. In the suit, he claims that jailers physically abused him multiple times and force-fed him after he staged a hunger strike. "I'm uncovering every little flaw here," a slender Simmons said about the jail, where he said he lost almost 70 pounds during his three hunger strikes. Chief Deputy Jamie Page denied any wrongdoing by jail personnel. Simmons has been treated better than any other inmate, he said. Simmons is self-abusive, purposely faints, and has thrown his urine as part of dra- matic protests, Page said. "He stages hunger strikes, fainting injuries and other maladies that don't exist," Page said. "It deteriorates his body and prompts us to take him to the hospital to get him treated." One time, Simmons had to get intravenous therapy to pump vital fluids into his body because of his self-indt/ced health problems and when the IV was inserted, the vein collapsed. Simmons then agreed to start drinking liquids, said Inspector Bruce Board- man, who works in the sheriff department's equivalent to internal affairs. "He degraded himself so much that the vein collapsed," said Boardman, who investigat- ed the allegations. "He was only poked with a needle once." Each hunger strike forces jailers to transport Simmons to the hospital, he said. "He'll go to the hospital and they'll feed him there," Boardman says. "He's a master manipulator." Other than disrupting jail operations, Page says that Sim- mons wastes taxpayer money. Besides hospital visits, he has been sent to specialists tO get CAT scans, MRIs and orthot- ics - precautions to head off lawsuits, sheriff's officials say. "He's going to cry wolf to basically act out," Page said. "Sometimes it's as simple as his hair. He doesn't like the jail barber, so he wants to select his own barber. It's not Burger King, you're not going to get it your way." loan. 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