When a case goes cold it makes the survivors have to keep reliving the crime over and over, because the investigators go back again and again to see if something new was remembered or if they get a new lead. Today’s case is a Cold Case from Tallahassee, Florida, and it begins at 641 Muriel Court.
October 22, 1966, the Sims family consisted of Robert (42) his wife Helen (34) and their three daughters Norma Jeannette (17), Judith Ann (15), and Joy Lynn (12). The family were considered tight knit that many aspired to be. They attended church, were financially stable and were well respected in the community.
The community had less than 100,000 people and this crime created a sense of fear among the residents. When no arrests were made cash rewards were offered.
On the fall night of October 22, the older two daughters, Norma, called Virginia by her friends, and Judith were out babysitting. When Virginia returned home it was near 11:15pm and she found her father near death on the floor. Her mother was also near death and her little sister, Joy, was already dead next to her mother.
“Something terrible has happened, please come,” Norma Jeannette Sims pleaded with a Tallahassee funeral home and ambulance service.
Her father, Dr. Robert Sims, had been shot in the head, her mother, Mrs. Helen Sims, had been shot twice in the head and once in the leg, and Joy Sims, had been shot in the head, and stabbed 7 times.
Sadly, Dr. Sims would die just after the ambulance arrived, Helen would survive for 9 more days in the hospital in a comatose state. She would never regain consciousness. And when the police looked for a motive, they weren’t able to fine one, as the Sims family were upstanding people.
About a half hour before Virginia returned home a neighbor had heard screams but had assumed it was young adults. There was a football game happening at the university and people may have been excited. The Sims home had a forested area behind it and there was no sign of forced entry, the police assumed the murderer was someone that the family knew. Almost immediately, robbery was ruled out as a motive for the murders. There was no evidence of anything being moved around or stolen.
Russell Bevis and his son, Rocky, arrived first at the home from the Funeral Home. They attempted to save the lives of the parents. Rocky was sent to find something to cut the bindings from them, compromising the scene. The first investigator to arrive was Larry Campbell, he became the lead detective on the case.
The investigation was slow going as many people had wandered through the crime scene and the murder weapon was not able to be found. The police even searched the area outside the house and drained a pond looking for it.
There have been suspects over the years, but no arrests. Here are some of the details about the suspects.
Suspect Number 1 – C.A. Roberts. He was a pastor at the First Baptist Church and Helen Sims had done clerical work for the church but resigned a few weeks before her murder. Gossips claimed that Mr. Roberts was a womanizer and had an affair with Helen and then murdered her, her husband, and their daughter, Joy. Investigators observed Mr. Roberts but there was nothing to suggest his involvement. He was also the FSU football team chaplain and was seen on film the entire time that night at the football game. Mr. Roberts stepped down as a pastor, and later died in an accident.
Suspect Number 2 – Robert and Peggy Howells. In December of 1966, Peggy and Robert were driving down the coast of Florida when Robert confessed to Peggy on how he had murdered the Sims’ family. She didn’t go to the police until the 1980’s as she feared for her life and her children’s lives. Eventually Robert is cleared of involvement, but Peggy was always adamant that he was the killer.
Suspect Number 3 – Mary Charles LaJoie and Vernon Fox. Neighbors who knew Mary said she was obsessed with death and was often caught breaking into funeral homes. Mary’s boyfriend, Vernon was a creepy peeping Tom and had even peeped on Joy Lynn Sims a week before she died. The police found several odd things about their behavior, and they gave conflicting and changing statements to the police.
Mary Charles LaJoie, spoke with police and she learned that Vernon may have been arrested for peeping on young, Joy Sims. She said she would have come up with a plan to protect Vernon, so she didn’t lose her only friend. The night of the murder, the couple were at the movies, but said they left after the second movie and went directly home.
In 2016, Vernon stated that they had left the movie and had sex in the car. In 1987, Mary stated they didn’t have sex until she was at least 19, which was 1967. Their stories consistently change and contradict each other.
Is the case solvable? Some say yes, but after 55 years, is it possible? One of the areas that could help the case is having any remaining evidence examined by modern technology and DNA profiling.
The case remains one of Tallahassee’s most notorious unsolved murders. Even though violent crime would strike Florida State University in 1978, when serial killer Ted Bundy broke into a sorority and bludgeoned students to death, this case still hangs heavy on the minds of all residents who were around at the time.
The Sims family’s murders are still not solved, and there is a documentary from and FSU student that sheds a lot of light on the case, you can view it here: https://vimeo.com/189936003
Stay Curious my Friends!