June 18—The jury hearing the case against Chase A. Simmons deliberated most of the day and into Friday evening before convicting him of two counts of murder and one count of second-degree assault .
The Daviess County jury received the case at 11 a.m. and were tasked with determining whether Simmons, 20, was guilty of two counts of murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Jasper “Rex” Brown and Amarius Winstead, 16, in June. January 1, 2019, filming at a yard party on Crisp Road in Whitesville.
Commonwealth lawyer Bruce Kuegel told jurors Friday morning that Simmons shot Brown over a dispute between the two, and that Winstead was also shot in the attack. A third person, Tyler Glover, was also shot in the incident, but recovered. Simmons faces a second-degree assault charge for allegedly shooting Glover.
Jurors halted their deliberations mid-afternoon to watch videotaped testimony of Andrew Pierce, who testified earlier in the week that he had been with Simmons the night of the shooting, leading him to the party and driving him to a trailer park on US 431 where the handgun used in the shooting was recovered.
At 10 p.m., jurors asked to review testimony from Savannah Helm, who said from the stand that he received a FaceTime call from Simmons, where he confessed to the shooting.
The prosecution closed its case Thursday and the defense presented only two brief witnesses Friday morning. Simmons did not testify.
In his closing argument, Bryce Caldwell, one of Simmons’ attorneys, said prosecutors Kuegel and Kristin Whitney failed to prove Simmons was involved in the shooting.
“There is a reasonable doubt that pervades every aspect of this case,” Caldwell said, and asked the jurors “not to guess my client guilty.”
“This case is a rush to judgment, rooted in high school gossip from the very beginning,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell argued that once Daviess County Sheriff’s Department detectives heard Simmons’ name, they never looked at any other possible suspects.
“Not a single person except Andrew Pierce put Chase on the line,” Caldwell said.
Although there were a number of people at the party, none of the witnesses who testified during the week could identify the shooter as Simmons.
While one person testified that they saw the shooter had “white hands,” other witnesses said they thought the shooter was black, Caldwell said.
Pierce received an agreement to testify, where he would potentially not be prosecuted for obstructing arrest.
Caldwewll described Pierce’s testimony as motivated by “self-interest”.
No fingerprints were found on the weapon, although it was determined from casings that the weapon recovered was the one used in the firing.
Regarding Helm’s testimony on the FaceTime call, Caldwell said that Helm had previously dated Simmons and was angry with him, and that other minors with Helm at the time had different memories of that time.
Another witness, a minor who said Simmons admitted to shooting while she and Simmons were in a juvenile detention center, was not credible. Caldwell said the sheriff’s department filing failed to follow up on important details.
“We demand better,” Caldwell said. “You should demand better than what was presented this week.”
In his closing argument, Kuegel said that instead of receiving thin evidence, the jury was presented with 50 exhibits and heard from more than 40 witnesses.
Kuegel asked jurors to consider “consistencies” between Pierce’s and Helm’s testimony.
“The consistencies don’t lie,” Kuegel said.
Helm, Kuegel said, said Simmons told him he shot Brown moments after the incident. Helm also testified that Simmons was talking about getting revenge on Brown, Kuegel said.
“There was a beef going on, some sort of issue that was going to be taken care of,” Kuegel said.
Helm, Kuegel said, had no reason to lie about the call, and that phone records showed a call between the two took place.
“Why would Savannah Helm show up and be a part of this?” Kuegel said, and that, “she comes forward and testifies, ‘that’s what I heard’.”
Kuegel dismissed the idea that Helm was trying to get revenge on Simmons.
“Coming up and testifying under oath takes more than being mad at him,” Kuegel said.
The description of the handgun Pierce said he saw Simmons carrying after shooting matches the gun retrieved and used in the incident, Kuegel said.
A photo presented to jurors shows Simmons with a handgun that resembles the weapon used in the shooting in his pocket.
Five days passed before Simmons was arrested.
“The argument is pretty clear that (Simmons) knew he was wanted by the police, but he managed to evade detection starting June 1,” Kuegel said.
Law enforcement limited their investigation to Simmons due to Helm’s statement regarding the FaceTime call.
“One of the reasons they focused on (Simmons) is he said, ‘I killed Rex,'” Kuegel said. not be true. You’re proud of that fact.”
Helm’s description of Simmons wearing a black hoodie matched Pierce’s testimony about what Simmons was wearing that night, and a witness statement earlier in the week that the shooter was wearing a black hoodie.
Simmons “for some reason he executed Mr. Brown,” Kuegel said. “He went there for that reason alone.”
Jurors began the penalty phase at midnight to determine the length of Simmons’ sentence.
This had not been determined at the time of going to press.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, [email protected], Twitter: @JamesMayse