Ronald Gene Simmons

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Ronald Gene Simmons
Ronald Gene Simmons.jpg
Ronald Gene Simmons

(1940-07-15)July 15, 1940
DiedJune 25, 1990(1990-06-25) (aged 49)
Cause of deathLethal injection
Spouse(s)Rebecca "Becky" Ulibarri (1960–1987; her murder)
Criminal penaltyDeath
DateDecember 22 – December 28, 1987
Location(s)Dover and Russellville, Arkansas, United States
Target(s)Family, acquaintances
Ronald Gene Simmons
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy (1957-63)
 United States Air Force (ca. 1965-79)
Years of service1957-1963 (USN)
ca. 1965-1979 (USAF)
Rank Master sergeant (USAF)
AwardsBronze Star Medal
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross
Airforce Ribbon for Excellent Marksmanship[1]
Spouse(s)died December 22, 1987

Ronald Gene Simmons, Sr., (July 15, 1940 – June 25, 1990) was an American spree killer, who killed 16 people over a week-long period in Arkansas in 1987. A retired military serviceman, Simmons murdered 14 members of his family, including a daughter he had sexually abused and the child he had fathered with her, a former co-worker, and a stranger, and wounded four others.

Simmons was sentenced to death 16 times, and after refusing to appeal his sentence, was executed by Arkansas in 1990.

Early life and military career[edit]

Ronald Gene Simmons was born on July 15, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois, to Loretta and William Simmons. On January 31, 1943, William Simmons died of a stroke and within a year, Simmons's mother had remarried, this time to William D. Griffen, a civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 1946, the corps moved Griffen to Little Rock, Arkansas, the first of several transfers that would take the family across central Arkansas over the next decade.[2]

On September 15, 1957, Simmons dropped out of school and joined the U.S. Navy, and was first stationed at Naval Station Bremerton in Washington, where he met Bersabe Rebecca "Becky" Ulibarri, whom he married in New Mexico on July 9, 1960. Over the next 18 years, the couple had seven children. In 1963, Simmons left the navy, and approximately two years later joined the U.S. Air Force. During his 20-year military career, Simmons was awarded a Bronze Star Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross for his service as an airman, and the Airforce Ribbon for Excellent Marksmanship. Simmons retired from the air force and military service on November 30, 1979, with the rank of master sergeant.

On April 3, 1981, Simmons was being investigated by the Cloudcroft, New Mexico, Department of Human Services for allegations that he had fathered a child with his 17-year-old daughter, Sheila, whom he had been sexually abusing.[1] Fearing arrest, Simmons fled New Mexico with his family, first to Ward, Arkansas in late 1981, and then to near Dover, Arkansas in the summer of 1983. The family took up residence on a 13-acre tract of land 6.5 miles north of Dover that would become known as Mockingbird Hill. The residence was constructed of two older-model mobile homes joined to form one large home, neither of which had a telephone nor indoor plumbing, and was surrounded by a makeshift privacy fence which was as high as 10-feet tall in some places.[1]

Simmons worked a string of low-paying jobs in the nearby town of Russellville, Arkansas. He quit a position as an accounts receivable clerk at Woodline Motor Freight after numerous reports of inappropriate sexual advances and went to work at a Sinclair Mini Mart for approximately a year and a half before quitting on December 18, 1987.

Murder spree[edit]


Shortly before Christmas 1987, Simmons decided to kill all the members of his family. On the morning of December 22, he first killed his wife Rebecca and eldest son Gene by shooting them with a .22-caliber pistol, and then killed his three-year-old granddaughter Barbara by strangulation. Simmons dumped the bodies in a cesspit he had made his children dig. Simmons then waited for his other children to return to the house, and after their arrival he told them he had presents for them, but wanted to give them one at a time. He first killed his daughter, 17-year-old Loretta, whom Simmons strangled and held under the water in a rain barrel. The three other children, Eddy, Marianne, and Becky, were then killed in the same way.

Around mid-day on December 26, the remaining members of the family arrived for their Christmas visit. The first to be killed was Simmons' son Billy and his wife Renata, who were both shot dead. He then strangled and drowned their 20-month-old son, Trae. Simmons shot and killed his oldest daughter, Sheila (whom he had sexually abused), and her husband, Dennis McNulty. Simmons then strangled his child by Sheila, seven-year-old Sylvia Gail, and finally his 21-month-old grandson Michael. Simmons laid the bodies of his whole family in neat rows in the lounge. All the corpses were covered with coats except that of Sheila, who was covered by Rebecca Simmons' best tablecloth. The bodies of the two grandsons were wrapped in plastic sheeting and left in abandoned cars at the end of the lane. After the murders, Simmons went for a drink in a local bar, then returned to the house and, apparently oblivious to the corpses lined up around him, spent the rest of the evening and the following day drinking beer and watching television.


On the morning of December 28, Simmons drove into Russellville, walked into a law office, and killed the receptionist, a young woman named Kathy Kendrick. Simmons had previously been infatuated with Kendrick, but she had rejected him. He next went to an oil company office, where he shot dead a man named J.D. Chaffin and wounded the owner, Rusty Taylor, and then drove on to a convenience store where he had previously worked, shooting and wounding two more people. Afterwards, Simmons went to the office of the Woodline Motor Freight Company, where he shot and wounded a woman. Simmons then simply sat in the office and chatted with one of the secretaries while waiting for the police. When they arrived, Simmons handed over his gun and surrendered without any resistance.


Date Name Age Relationship Cause of death
December 22, 1987
Ronald Gene Simmons Jr. 29 Son Gunshot
Bersabe Rebecca Simmons 46[3] Wife Gunshot
Barbara Simmons[4] 3 Granddaughter [3] Strangulation
Loretta Simmons 17[5] Daughter Strangulation
Eddy Simmons 14[6] Son Strangulation
Marianne Simmons 11[6] Daughter Strangulation
Rebecca "Becky" Simmons 8[6] Daughter Strangulation
December 26, 1987
William "Billy" Simmons II 23[6] Son Gunshot
Renata[7] Simmons 22[6] Daughter-in-Law Gunshot
William H. "Trae" Simmons III 1[3][5] Grandson Drowning
Sheila Simmons McNulty 24 Daughter Gunshot
Dennis McNulty 23 Son-in-Law Gunshot
Sylvia Gail McNulty 6 Daughter and Granddaughter Strangulation
Michael McNulty 20 months Grandson Strangulation
December 28, 1987
Kathy Kendrick 24 Acquaintance Gunshot
J.D. Chaffin 33[5] Stranger Gunshot


Simmons was charged with 16 counts of murder, found guilty, and sentenced to death. He refused to appeal his death sentence, stating, "To those who oppose the death penalty - in my particular case, anything short of death would be cruel and unusual punishment."[8]

John Bynum successfully prosecuted the case. Simmons was first tried for the Russellville crimes, and a jury convicted him of capital murder and sentenced him to death. He made an additional statement, under oath, supporting his sentence:

I, Ronald Gene Simmons, Sr., want it to be known that it is my wish and my desire that absolutely no action by anybody be taken to appeal or in any way change this sentence. It is further respectfully requested that this sentence be carried out expeditiously.

The trial court conducted a hearing concerning Simmons' competence to waive further proceedings, and concluded that his decision was knowing and intelligent.

Simmons became the subject of the United States Supreme Court Case Whitmore v. Arkansas when another death row inmate, Jonas Whitmore, attempted, unsuccessfully, to force an appeal of Simmons' case.[9]


While on death row, Simmons had to be separated from other prisoners as his life was threatened constantly. This was because he refused to appeal his death sentence; the other prisoners believed Simmons was damaging their chances of beating their own death sentences.

On May 31, Arkansas governor (later President) Bill Clinton signed Simmons' execution warrant, and on June 25, 1990, he died by the method he had chosen, lethal injection.[10] None of his relatives would claim the body, and he was buried in a potter's field.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c Associated Press (January 1, 1988). "Arkansas massacre victims eulogized at funerals". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  4. ^ Conflicting Sources: some have listed Barbara as a daughter, while others label her a granddaughter.
  5. ^ a b c Associated Press (December 31, 1987). "MASSACRE VICTIMS EULOGIZED AT FUNERALS WITH AM-ALGONA KILLINGS". Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Sheriff reconstructs the murders of 16". NYTimes. January 1, 1988. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  7. ^ Some sources spell her name "Renada."
  8. ^ Clark County Prosecuting Attorney, accessed 17 July 2013
  9. ^ "Whitmore v. Arkansas 110 S. Ct. 1717, 109 L.Ed.2d 135 (1990)". Capital Defense Journal. 3 (1). 1 November 1990. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  10. ^ Trager, Lauren (25 October 2012). "Trail of Terror: 25 Years After The Ronald Gene Simmons Murders Part 1". KARK-4. Archived from the original on 2013-01-17. Retrieved 23 November 2012.


  • Moore, Jim: Rampage - America's Largest Family Mass Murder; The Summit Publishing Group, 1997. ISBN 978-1-56530-002-6
  • Marshall, Bryce Zero at the Bone: Story of Gene Simmons Mass Murder; Pocket Books, 1991. ISBN 978-0-671-68511-9

External links[edit]