Erwin Charles Simants
Erwin Charles Simants will remain at the Lincoln Regional Center for another year, under the same conditions that he is under now, Lincoln County District Judge Donald Rowlands ruled Tuesday. Rowlands agreed with evaluations in the last decade that Simants could revert to his former behavior if he were in a less restrictive environment.
Rowlands spent nearly a month considering the case, from the killings in 1975 through the court decisions, as well as psychiatric evaluations past and present.
"There is clear and convincing evidence that Simants is and continues to be mentally ill and dangerous to others...and will continue to be dangerous to others in the foreseeable future," he said.
Simants “committed one of the most heinous acts in the history of the state” in 1975 when he killed six people in a neighbors house in Sutherland, all members of the Henry Kellie family. Simants also sexually molested at least two and possibly three of his victims, Rowlands said.
The killings led to protracted trails and in 1979 Simants was found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined to the mental health unit of the Lincoln Regional Center, where he remains, along with 27 others.
Simants has been a model prisoner for several years, the regional center staff said.
His status is reviewed every year.
In 2010, the court allowed Simants to leave the center for therapeutic purposes, but always in the company of at least one staff member. He can also leave the center four times a year on supervised visits with family members, but not for more than eight hours at a time.
Not only is he supervised whenever he leaves the center, police are notified in advance of his destination and are provided with a description of the clothing he wears.
On Sept. 24, defense attorney Bob Lindemeier claimed on Simants’ behalf that he is no longer mentally ill, based on written reports and testimony of psychologists and psychiatrists at the regional center.
Simants appealed to the court to be released without supervision, touching off a wave of fear from the survivors of his murder spree.
In reaching his decision, Rowlands reviewed the facts of the case since 1975, including evaluations and recent statements from five doctors.
Four doctors from the Regional Center agreed that Simants, 67, is not on any psychotropic medication and there is no indication that he is suffering from schizophrenia, and has no active signs or symptoms of mental illness.
The four doctors on the staff at the center also said Simants shows no signs of pedophilic dreams, preoccupations or fantasies involving children.
But Rowlands was not convinced.
He said it is probable that Simants knows what answers to give during evaluations that “are favorable to his prognosis.”
Rowlands said Simant’s crimes in 1975 make it crystal clear that he is a pedophile and suffers from necrophilia as well.
He also agreed with evaluations in the last decade that said Simants could revert to his former behavior if he were in a less restrictive environment.
“While his mental illness may not be readily apparent in a controlled environment, I find that it exists,” Rowland said in the decision. “The fact that the defendant has been a model patient does not mean that his mental illness will remain in remission if he is subjected to the stresses of life outside of the sheltered environment.”
Rowlands said if Simants were released, it is highly likely that in a relatively short time he would withdraw from society, start drinking excessively, become a loner and again start experiencing hallucinations or fantasies which would result in another violent sexual outburst.
Rowlands noted that Simants has never received inpatient alcohol treatment at the center, has not had sex offender treatment since 1990, and has virtually no family support.
Rowlands agreed with a fifth doctor who said that Simants poses a risk to reoffend in a violent manner, and if he does, he could put people in grave mortal danger.
Rowlands noted that even Dr. Klaus Hartmann of the medical staff of the regional center, who gave a favorable prognosis, said “If he (Simants) were to do alcohol again, then all bets are off.”
“This court is not inclined to gamble with the safety of the public, particularly as it relates to young girls and older women who would be defenseless targets,” Rowlands said.