Court Cases I WCTV Eyewitness News: Tallahassee, Thomasville, Valdosta

Woman Sentenced to Life in Prison for Drowning Granddaughter

By: Donnitra Gilbert; Caroline Gonzmart, Matt Galka Email
By: Donnitra Gilbert; Caroline Gonzmart, Matt Galka Email

NORMAN PARK -- For Tommy Smith, it's always been about family.

"I've got my own family, I've got a 21-year-old, I've got step kids I love, kids always come first," he said.

Tommy lives in Norman Park, GA. He had seen Alexis Walker around town with her grandfather before Virginia Sims, Alexis' grandmother, drowned her in June of 2011. Tommy remembers how tough it was in the months after.

"I laid in my bed and cried just about every night for about three months thinking about that little girl, thinking it could have been someone in my family," said an emotional Smith.

Virginia Sims plead guilty to drowning Alexis on Wednesday. She was sentenced to life in prison.

The pond off Moye Rd. in Norman Park is nearly dry now. Investigators say Sims strangled Alexis underwater, causing her to die of asphyxiation.

Tommy Smith wanted to do something for the family. He sold watermelons and donated the money so the family could afford to have a funeral for Alexis. He feels the same today as he did in June, and does not believe justice was served with a life sentence

"It's really sad, I don't know what else to say. And i don't think she should have gotten life in prison, I think she should have gotten the death penalty."
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[UPDATE] 2-9 Noon -

A South Georgia woman has entered a plea in the 2011 drowning death of her six year old granddaughter. 47-year-old Virginia Sims plead guilty yesterday and was sentenced to life in prison for the drowning death of her granddaughter Alexis Walker.

The incident occurred in June of 2011 at a pond in Norman Park. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Sims took her granddaughter to the pond near Moye Rd. on the evening of June 20th where she then drowned her.

The official cause of death was asphyxia, which happens when the flow of oxygen is cut off from the brain by strangulation. Investigators believe that Alexis was being strangled by her grandmother while being held under water.

Virginia Sims had a troubled past prior to drowning her granddaughter. A police report indicated in 2010 that Sims was charged with first degree arson and less than 24 hours later was then involved in a single car crash with Alexis inside the vehicle. The Worth County sheriff's office indicated that the crash was a suicide attempt.

The Department of Family and Child services said at the time that they were never made aware of the incidents, or they would have stepped in.

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[UPDATED 6/28 at 4:50PM]

Deputies say Virginia Sims drowned her granddaughter Alexis Walker last Monday in Norman Park, Georgia.

A Colquitt County coroner says autopsy results show that the cause of death was asphyxia.

Medical examiners say this happens when the flow of oxygen is cut off from the brain by strangulation.

Sims, who is 46, remains behind bars without bond.

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[LAST UPDATED 6/26 at 6:20PM]

Saying a final 'goodbye' is never easy, especially when the person being remembered is a child.

Family and friends in Norman Park, Georgia, said their last farewells to a little girl who died Monday

Members of the Norman Park community say they're 'deeply saddened' by the death of six-year-old Alexis Walker.

The mood was somber at a Georgia Baptist Conference Center auditorium this afternoon, where family and friends gathered quietly to remember the little girl.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says the six-year-old died at the hands of her grandmother, Virginia Sims, this past Monday.

They say Sims took Alexis to a pond off Moye Road and drowned her.

Following the services today, 6/26 Alexis was buried in St. James Pallbearers Cemetery.

Alexis' mother, Ashley Walker, requested that we not speak with family members or friends on camera.

She did say through a family spokesperson that her daughter will be missed dearly.

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Funeral plans are coming together for a local six-year-old who authorities say died at the hands of her grandmother.

46-year-old Virginia Sims was denied bond Wednesday.

Deputies say Sims admitted to drowning Alexis Walker in a Norman Park pond earlier this week.

Alexis' funeral will be Sunday at 3 p.m., at the Georgia Baptist Assembly in Norman Park, Georgia.
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[UPDATE] 6-22-2011

46-year-old Virginia Sims remains behind bars without bond for the drowning death of her 6-year-old granddaughter Alexis Walker.

A frantic call rang through 911 dispatch around seven o'clock Monday night. A call residents describe as gruesome.

"I can't imagine anyone doing that to a child," says Colquitt County resident Jenny Sauls.

But co-workers of Virginia Sims say this isn't the first time she put Alexis in harm's way.

"I heard she burnt the house down and she ran the car into a tree with her and the little girl in the car," says Sims' co-worker Tatiana Hill.

A three page police report indicates Sims was charged with first degree arson and another two page report says she was involved in a single car crash with Alexis inside.

Both incidents happened in May of last year, less than 24 hours apart. So residents are wondering why Alexis wasn't taken out of the home at that time.

" DFCS must be first made aware of any incidents ... regarding suspected abuse before an investigation takes place."

DFCS says if the case would have been reported, they would have stepped in.

We just spoke with Worth County Sheriff's Office who confirmed that Sims said her 2010 car accident was indeed a suicide attempt. Little Alexis was not harmed in that crash.
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[UPDATE} 6-22-2011

Virginia Sims made her first appearance today around 3:30 pm. Her bond was denied. No cameras or family members were allowed at the hearing.

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[LAST UPDATED 6/21 at 5:55PM]

Picture of Alexis Walker courtesy of the Moultrie Observer

A south Georgia community is reeling after learning a grandmother allegedly killed her young granddaughter.

Residents WCTV spoke with Tuesday say they're shocked a grandmother would have the desire to hurt her own flesh and blood.

One resident, Keri Howard, says she cried herself to sleep thinking about it.

Says Howard, "I couldn't sleep because, you know, it ain't even 100 feet from our house ... a little girl was in that pond."

Neighbors on rural Moye Road in Norman Park, Georgia say they're still in shock after a grandmother allegedly drowned her granddaughter.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says 46-year-old Virginia Sims took her six-year-old granddaughter, Alexis Walker, to a pond on Moye Road and drowned her at about seven o'clock the evening of June 20, 2011.

They say she drowned the girl, then went to a neighbor's house and asked them to call 911.

Full 911 tape

Howard lives close to the pond where the drowning happened and says she heard the commotion.

She says, "It was very sad because we were out in the yard and we had thought we had heard screaming, but we just associated it with some kids down the road."

But before long, Howard says she realized what she'd heard.

She says, "We later found out that a lady had gone down there and threw [sic] her granddaughter in the pond."

GBI says it's investigating exactly what happened that night.

Neighbors say they've heard rumors the little girl was misbehaving and Sims wanted to 'teach her a lesson.'

Sims has been arrested on murder charges.

In the meantime, investigators are still working to uncover clues in the case.

Dispatch tapes from the 911 call have been released to us and we'll have more soon.
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[UPDATE] Norman Park, Georgia - June 21, 2011 - 4:20PM

46-year-old Virginia Sims is charged with murder. Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents say she admitted to a resident on Moye Road that she killed her 6-year-old granddaughter in a pond. They say Sims told the resident:

"I need you to call the police for me, I've killed my granddaughter," says GBI Agent Steve Turner.

Residents are still wondering why this happened.

"You can't punish a child and take their life away," says Norman Park resident Rhonda Comer.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations says Sims threatened to hurt the grandchild anytime there were marital problems between her and her husband.

Agents say the husband tried to stop her, but it was too late.

Investigators say they pulled the lifeless 6-year-old out of the pond and placed her on the dirt road where they tried several times to revive her.

Investigators say Sims hasn't been diagnosed with any mental problems. Those who know her say they believe she does have some issues.

"Mental illness is so prevalent in the U.S., but it's such a stigma because it's difficult to diagnose," says Dr. Gene Sun, a psychiatrist at Archbold Memorial Hospital.

Psychiatrists say the brain is just like any other organ. It can get sick.

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[UPDATE] Norman Park, Georgia - June 21, 2011 - Noon -

Authorities say a grandmother has admitted to committing a terrible crime, and they say the victim is the woman's granddaughter.

It happened around 7 o'clock Monday night in the 1700 block of Moye road in Norman Park, Georgia. The GBI says 46-year-old Virginia Sims is behind bars after admitting to drowning her granddaughter, 6-year-old Alexis Walker. We're not sure what the alleged motive was at this time. We are on scene at the pond where the incident took place. We're not sure if the grandmother drowned her granddaughter or if she put the six year old's body in the water after allegedly killing her.

Stay with WCTV for more.

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Norman Park, Georgia - June 21, 2011 - 10:20am -

WCTV has confirmed that 46-year-old Virginia Sims is behind bars after admitting to drowning her granddaughter, 6-year-old Alexis Walker. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says that the drowning took place around 7pm on June 20th off of Moye Road in Norman Park, Georgia. Sims admitted on the 911 call that she had killed her granddaughter by drowning her.

WCTV has a reporter on the scene. Stay with WCTV for details.


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