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Michael Anthony SIMMONS





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Mental retardation
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: September 30, 2006
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: April 26, 1965
Victims profile: His wife, Detra Rainey, 39, and her children William Lee Rainey, 16; Hakiem Rainey, 13; Malachi Robinson, 8; and Samenia Robinson, 6
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Charleston County, South Carolina, USA
Status: Found mentally unfit to stand trial on June 20, 2008. Confined indefinitely in a secure state mental hospital

Suspect avoids trial

Simmons found mentally unfit; victims' family irate

By Glenn Smith - The Post and Courier

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Michael Anthony Simmons hunched over in a courtroom Friday, tears and sweat rolling down his cheeks.

He shook his head and pumped his leg. He stared blankly at his lawyer when a judge tried to question him.

Simmons' erratic behavior, coupled with a diagnosis of dementia, led Circuit Judge Kristi Harrington to determine that he is mentally unfit to stand trial in the killings of his wife and her four children in 2006.

The decision sparked angry reactions from relatives of the victims, who are convinced that Simmons is putting on a show to escape prison time for shooting to death 39-year-old Detra Rainey and her children, ages 6 to 16, inside their North Charleston mobile home.

"He's playing a game, that's all it is,"

Charles Thompson, Rainey's brother-in-law, said as left the courtroom.

"Yes he is," another relative replied with a grimace. "He needs to man up to what he's done."

That may never happen. If Simmons is to be believed, he recalls almost nothing from his past. He can't remember the killings or even the fact that he had a family, according to a forensic psychologist's report.

The judge's ruling paves the way for Simmons, 43, to be confined indefinitely in a secure state mental hospital.

Beattie Butler, Simmons' public defender, said Harrington made the only decision possible, given his client's precarious mental state.

Butler said there is clear evidence from brain scans that Simmons suffered a stroke of some kind while he was in jail. The resulting damage has left Simmons unable to comprehend the charges against him or assist in his defense. Simmons doesn't even realize he is in jail, he said.

"He is profoundly confused," Butler said.

Solicitor Bruce Durant said prosecutors remain skeptical, particularly since Simmons' dementia set in after his arrest. Mental health tests conducted on behalf of prosecutors and the defense were in agreement on that diagnosis, he said.

"The psychiatrists are driving the bus on this one, and we're just passengers hanging on," Durant said.

The killings were among the most heinous reported during 2006, a record-setting year for murders in the tri-county area. North Charleston police found all five victims slain in their Ferndale area mobile home on a Saturday afternoon.

Killed were Rainey and her children William Lee Rainey, 16; Hakiem Rainey, 13; Malachi Robinson, 8; and Samenia Robinson, 6.

Investigators think Simmons shot the family in the early morning and then hung around the house. Neighbors reported seeing him sitting on his porch for much of the day, almost until the very moment North Charleston police arrived. Some said he looked fidgety.

The killings came to light after Simmons invited a woman into his home with the offer of a cigarette, possibly for the purpose of having sex with her, authorities said. She walked inside, saw the bodies and ran from the home to call police.

North Charleston police Sgt. Kelly Spears spent about four hours interviewing Simmons after the killings. Simmons seemed coherent and capable at the time, Spears said, and she saw nothing that would suggest dementia. If anything, Simmons seemed a bit more calculating than the average suspect, she said.

A psychiatric evaluation done one week after the killings showed Simmons to be coherent and he was able to describe events leading up to his arrest, but his mental state deteriorated markedly in the months that followed.

Multiple psychiatric evaluations this year found him to be fearful, guarded and constricted, with a "severely impaired mental status," according to a report by forensic psychiatrist Leonard Mulbry.

Simmons was admitted to a mental hospital once before, in 1987, and reported a history of hallucinating and hearing voices at that time. Tests suggested that he had mild mental retardation.

His mother told doctors that Simmons' father had a history of mental illness and that several other family members had died from mental illness, according to Mulbry's report.

Simmons was released from the hospital later that year and returned to the county jail to face pending criminal charges of armed robbery, assault and battery with intent to kill and second-degree burglary. He was convicted of those charges the following year, 1988.

Rainey's sister, Melba RaineyThompson, said Simmons has always been short-tempered, violent and trigger-happy. She recalled one instance where he pointed a gun at her husband during an anniversary party.

She and another sister, Nicole Rainey Pruitt, attended Friday's hearing and came away convinced that Simmons was faking his mental illness to escape prison. "It's just an act," Pruitt said.

Melba Thompson said the death of her sister and Rainey's children has been devastating to their family. Thompson said she can hardly sleep these days, and her daughter is in counseling.

Christan Rainey, who lost his mother and four siblings in the shootings, remains in Baton Rouge, La., where he attends school and works as a Wal-Mart manager. He had been saving his vacation days and money to return to Charleston to attend his stepfather's trial. He was crushed to learn that wouldn't happen.

"I just feel like he's getting the easy way out," he said. "If you do something like he did, I don't care what happens after. You should still be held responsible."


Woman, 4 Children Murdered

Suspect Denied Bond

Oct 1, 2006

North Charleston police say five people were shot to death in a mobile home on Marson Street in the Ferndale neighborhood.

Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten identified the victims as 39-year-old Betra Rainey and her children: 16-year-old William Rainey, 13-year-old Hakiem Rainey, eight-year-old Malachia Robinson and six-year-old Samenia Robinson.

41-year-old Michael Anthony Simmons is charged in all five murders.

Simmons appeared this morning via video link from the Charleston County Jail. He is being held without bond and said (quote) "tell Mister Gene I apologize.''

The Associated Press is reporting that Gene Fanning married into the family. According to court documents, Simmons lived in the home with Rainey and her children, although it's not clear what his relationship was to the family. Wooten does say Simmons is not the father of any of the children.

Police say Simmons was captured leaving the scene with the handgun used to kill all five people. Police found the bodies about 1:43 pm Saturday. According to court documents, all five murders happened between 3am and 5:45am Saturday.

Live 5 News has obtained Simmons' arrest record. It dates back to 1984. Over the last 20 years, Simmons has been arrested and convicted of several violent crimes.


Family Of 5 Gunned Down

Hatzel Vela, Live 5 News

Oct 2, 2006

Police have charged a man with killing his wife and her 4 children. Authorities say 41-year old Michael Simmons shot them early Saturday morning at their trailer home in the Ferndale neighborhood of North Charleston.

Relatives say the couple, who had just celebrated their 1 year anniversary had a good relationship. And that Simmons had been especially supportive recently, when Detra, who was battling colon cancer, finished her first chemotherapy treatment.

The victims are:
39 year old Detra Simmons-Rainey
16 year old William Rainey
13 year old Hakeem Rainey
8 year old Malachi Robertson
7 year old Samenia Robertson

Michael Simmons was denied bond on 5 counts of murder.


Husband had a history of violence

Suspect in slayings of mom, 4 children served time for bloody '87 attack

By Ron Menchaca and Noah Haglund - The Post and Courier

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The man accused of killing his wife and four of her children has a violent past that includes the savage beating of a crippled cab driver, a suicide attempt and a vehicle accident that left him with a permanent limp and hallucinations.

Police found 39-year-old Detra Rainey and her four youngest children shot dead in their North Charleston mobile home Saturday afternoon. Her husband, Michael Anthony Simmons, 41, is charged with five counts of murder.

People who grew up near Simmons in the Orleans Road area of West Ashley say he was bad news and that if you ran with him, you were likely to get into some kind of trouble.

"Nobody really would hang with him. He was a loner," said Tony Bryant, who grew up near Simmons and saw him driving through their old neighborhood last week. "He always been in trouble."

Simmons was in his teens when he stole a go-kart and tore around the streets before being hit by a bus. The accident put him in a body cast for more than a year. He also suffered a leg injury in the accident that left him with a permanent limp. But the leg injury didn't seem to slow him down much.

Simmons was arrested in July 1984 following an argument at a club on Savage Road in which he was accused of beating two men with a broom handle. A police report says the victims later declined to press charges.

In February 1986, Simmons was accused of hitting a man in the face and head with a pipe and later was convicted of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

On Aug. 12, 1987, Simmons and an accomplice beat and robbed a disabled cab driver. They pummeled the one-legged man with his own crutches until they splintered and then stole his wallet before leaving him bleeding in the woods near Orleans Road.

Following his arrest for that crime, Simmons tried to commit suicide in the Charleston County jail, according to news reports from the time. Authorities sent Simmons to the State Hospital in Columbia, where he was diagnosed as mildly retarded but competent to stand trial for the attack on the cab driver. Simmons' public defender at the time told The News and Courier that Simmons suffered visual and audio hallucinations as a result of the vehicle accident years earlier. He was convicted in January 1988 of charges stemming from that attack.

Rainey would have been aware of Simmons' background, according to Bryant and others who grew up in the area. She and Simmons were childhood sweethearts who grew up just a block apart. "She knew what kind of person he was because he always been in trouble," Bryant said. "Them two always stuck together like that, even before he went to the penitentiary."

During the 16 years Simmons was in prison, Rainey moved on with her life and had four children with other men. Simmons continued to find trouble even in prison, racking up infractions for contraband, refusing or failing to obey, and use of obscene, vulgar or profane language, according to the state Department of Corrections.

It's unclear if the pair stayed in touch while he was incarcerated, but they resumed their romance soon after Simmons' release from prison in August 2004. By early 2005, Rainey told her church pastor that she wanted to marry Simmons. The Rev. James Yarsiah, pastor of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in West Ashley, said Simmons seemed excited about settling down and becoming a family man. "I did counseling with them for four months," Yarsiah said. "I didn't see any red flags."

He said Simmons took an active role in the church's premarital counseling sessions, which covered domestic issues such as finances, child rearing and marital conflict.

Yarsiah married the couple in a ceremony at the church on Sept. 10, 2005. It was a big wedding. All of Rainey's children participated. Samenia Robinson was the flower girl. Malachi Robinson was the ring bearer. Her three oldest boys were groomsmen.

By most accounts, the couple's first year of marriage was happy. Yarsiah said Rainey and the children usually came to church services without Simmons. Simmons abided by the conditions of his parole, and police never were called to the couple's Ferndale home.

But the seeming calm was shattered Saturday. Now, Simmons could face the death penalty.

Yarsiah said: "Let God be the judge."





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