By: Natalie Rubino
October 22, 2015
TALLAHASSEE -- Today marks the 49th anniversary of one of Tallahassee’s most shocking unsolved murders. On October 22, 1966, Robert and Helen Sims and their daughter Joy were found dead in their Muriel Court home.
The couple’s oldest daughter, Jeanie, came home from babysitting late that night. She found her family bound, gagged, stabbed, and shot.
Rocky Bevis was one of the first people on the scene.
"Back then it was just...it was beyond surprise. It was shock. It was disbelief. Things like that just didn't happen," said Bevis.
The murders sparked fear throughout the community-- women carried water guns filled with ammonia, and the neighborhood nearly cancelled Halloween.
LCSO had several people of interest, including a young couple and pastor, but no one has been charged in the murders. LCSO recently re-submitted evidence to the FDLE. Detectives hope new technology will give them a lead.
By: Natalie Rubino
April 27, 2015
October 22, 1966 was just like any other fall night in Tallahassee. Children played in the streets, looking forward to Halloween just days ahead; Football fans watched as Florida State beat Mississippi State 10 to 0; And Robert and Helen Sims sat in their Muriel Court home with their youngest daughter Joy, waiting for the two eldest daughters to get back from babysitting.
"They were sitting here [in the living room] most likely listening to the FSU game on the radio," Sgt. Dawn Dennis, a cold case detective for the Leon County Sheriff's Office says, pointing to an enlarged picture from the scene.
The oldest daughter, 17-year-old Jeanie Sims, arrived home just after 11 p.m. to a horrific scene.
"Joy was found on the floor next to her mother in the master bedroom. She was bound by the ankles and her wrists. She was gagged. She was shot. She was also stabbed multiple times in the chest area," Sgt. Dennis said.
Dr. and Mrs. Sims were also bound, gagged and stabbed, both still alive.
Using the same rotary phone that is still in the home today, Jeanie made an urgent call to Bevis Funeral Home for an ambulance.
16-year-old Rocky Bevis and his father were first on the scene.
"It was a horrendous scene to walk in on," Bevis said.
Not knowing if the murderer was still in the home, Rocky's father turned off the lights in the master bedroom and told his son to search for something to unbound the victims.
"I went into the kitchen to find a butcher knife or something and it suddenly dawned on me that I'm here by myself. I'm not the bravest person in the world but it scared the hell out of me to tell you the truth," he said.
Unable to save Dr. Sims, they transported Mrs. Sims, who was in a coma, to the hospital where she died just a few days later, unable to ever tell authorities what happened.
A massive search was launched to find whomever committed the crime.
"In 1966 you just didn't think those things happened. We were a sleepy little southern college town," Bevis says.
A sleepy town awoken by the murders of three innocent people while their killer or killers were still on the loose.
"The hardware stores where you can buy guns and ammunition sold out almost the very next day. Halloween, it was cancelled," Leon County Sheriff Mike Wood said.
The newspaper reported that women signed up for self defense classes and bought water guns, filling them with ammonia.
"We woke up one morning and all of the sudden we were in an evil world."
Dr. And Mrs. Sims, along with their daughter Joy were buried in their hometown of Meridian Mississippi. The surviving daughters Jenny and Judy dropped out of Leon High School and moved to Alabama to live with an aunt.
Sandi Brooks of Tallahassee was 12 years old when the murders happened. Brooks and Joy were best friends in elementary school. She says the Sims were an all American family.
"She was always positive, always energetic, always had a smile on her face," Brooks remembers of Joy.
The lead detective in finding the Sims' murderer or murderers, was 25-year-old future sheriff, Larry Campbell.
"Larry Campbell had this case and it was an absolute passion for him to solve this case," Sheriff Wood said.
The case was difficult to solve from the beginning. Bevis says between on and off duty authorities, almost 1,000 people walked through the home.
"They went in and made coffee. It was probably textbook 'what you shouldn't do'," Bevis remembers.
No murder weapon was ever found but detectives believe the murderer used a .38 caliber handgun.
Certain it wasn't a burglary gone wrong, one thing detectives still struggle with now is why were the Sims targeted?
"The Sims family, they had no enemies. There was no motivation for this," Sgt. Dennis said.
One of the first suspects was C.A. Roberts, a pastor at Tallahassee's First Baptist Church. Mrs. Sims was his secretary, until she quit just days before she was murdered. Roberts had an alibi though.
"He was the team chaplain for FSU and was seen at the game on the sidelines," Sgt. Dennis adds.
There were other suspects, but a young teenage couple stood out.. A 20-year-old male and a 19-year-old female.
Eyewitness News has chosen not to release the name of the couple, as they were never officially named suspects.
Officials and and residents remember the girlfriend following Campbell around during the investigation.
"She had a fascination with death and funeral homes," Bevis said.
Campbell focused on the two for years. After moving out of the area, she returned in 1987, wanting to talk.
"He was very, very close to getting her to admit to something," Bevis said.
"Sheriff Campbell was very confident that he knew who was responsible for this but we're not going to get tunnel vision on that. I will tell you that there's other names in this report," Sheriff Wood said.
Evidence from the scene has recently been re-submitted to FDLE labs in hopes that new technology will give detectives a lead.
"It's really going to take some hard evidence to be able to say, 'Okay, this is our prime suspect," Detective Dennis said.
"Do you think you have that evidence available to you?" we asked.
"I hope, I hope that it will be," she adds.
Brooks says even 48 years later she still thinks about Joy and where she'd be if she were alive today.
"One thing we talked about was being mothers and having children. I just want to know how many kids she would have and would they be blonde headed like she was?'"
Detectives never determined if more than one person committed the murder, but do admit the crime would be difficult for only one person to commit.
The Sheriff's Office could not say when it last had contact with the two surviving Sims daughters.