Attorneys in Jorden Simms $5 million wrongful death lawsuit request jury trial

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Jorden Simms died after jumping from a moving GCSO vehicle while in transport.

Sheriff and BOS given summons to appear

By Jon Johnson

PHOENIX – Two law firms who represent Deborah Sanchez in the wrongful death lawsuit of her daughter, Jorden Marie Simms, have requested a jury trial for the case and that it not be subject to compulsory arbitration.  

Arbitration is a mandatory program for disputes valued under $50,000 in which a court-appointed arbitrator reviews the case to decide a just resolution and award, according to The Judicial Branch of Arizona Maricopa County.

In the Simms wrongful death lawsuit, however, the notice of claim that was filed March 2 lists that the plaintiff is seeking $5 million. Sanchez is represented by Zachar Law Firm, P.C. and Taylor & Gomez, LLP, both of Phoenix. The lawsuit was filed in Maricopa County and listed Graham County and the Graham County Sheriff’s Office as defendants.

On Dec. 26, 2019, Simms was being transported by a male detention sergeant and a female Sheriff’s Office deputy to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center (MGRMC) for a Cat scan when she jumped from the moving Ford Explorer transport vehicle and was run over by the rear tire. The female deputy was utilized because a female officer was required to make the trip with the male detention officer and no female detention officers were available.

Simms was being transported to the hospital because she claimed abdominal pain resulting from being sodomized by a female detention officer upon her return to the jail after being taken to Sierra Vista for a sexual examination after she claimed she was sexually assaulted by a Safford officer while at MGRMC after her initial arrest.

After the incident, Simms was flown to Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, where she was declared brain dead Dec. 27, 2019. On Dec. 28, 2019, an honor walk was performed for Simms as customary for organ donors and she was taken off life support and passed. The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) is investigating Simms’ death and accusations she made regarding sexual assault.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: This is the booking photo taken the night of Jorden Simms’ arrest Dec. 21, 2019. Five days later, she was fatally injured after leaping from a moving transport vehicle.

Previous to her medical evaluation trip, Simms had repeatedly asked her mother on multiple occasions in recorded jail phone calls to bond her out of custody but was denied. Simms spoke of not wanting to be extradited to Yavapai County on her warrant and wanting to spend Christmas at home with her mother instead. 

Simms was initially arrested Dec. 21, 2009, and was then taken to MGRMC when she falsely claimed she was pregnant and was having related pains. While at the hospital, she claimed the arresting officer sexually assaulted her by digitally penetrating her vagina. After reporting her claim, she was taken to Lori’s Place in Sierra Vista on Dec. 23, 2019, to have an examination by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE).

Upon her return from the advocacy center, Simms claimed she was sodomized by a female detention officer when she was brought back into the jail. On the day of her accident, Simms was returning from her second visit to Lori’s Place and was en route to MGRMC.

Simms had a $25,000 cash or secured bond warrant out of Yavapai County from November 2019 on charges of theft of means of transportation, possession of drug paraphernalia, and failure to appear in court. She was booked into the jail on her warrant after attempting to escape and having to be chased down by the arresting officer. She was set to be extradited to Yavapai County when she insisted on having another sexual assault evaluation because she had been badly injured by the detention officer. The detention officer denied Simms’ claims and security footage at the jail appears to validate her version of events, in which no wrongdoing happened. 

Simms claimed the female detention officer “forcibly inserted” something into her rectum while she was changing in the shower cell and that it caused her severe injury including rectal bleeding.

However, according to Lori’s Place SANE Loraine Rutherford, Simms did not show any signs of having been sexually assaulted by the detention officer. 

“I didn’t see any injury that was consistent with forcing an object into her rectum,” Rutherford said in an interview with Graham County Undersheriff Jeff McCormies. “There were no tears noticeable to me. If something was forcibly inserted into the rectum, there would be tears. I did not see any sign that would cause me to believe that she had been forcibly penetrated.”

Both the Safford officer and detention officer vehemently deny the accusations and no physical evidence given to date has supported Simms’ claims.  

While she was at the advocacy center, Simms complained of back and abdominal pain, so the nurse advised that she should get a Cat scan at a hospital to see if there was indeed something inside her and arrangements were made to have the procedure done at MGRMC.    

In surveillance footage from a business across the street, Simms can be seen jumping from the Ford Explorer transport vehicle as it passed the Sunshine Valley Apartments on 20th Avenue, just south of MGRMC. Afterward, the detention sergeant exited from the front passenger side door – leaving the door open – and ran toward Simms. The deputy then turned the Ford Explorer around and drove back to protect Simms from being hit by any traffic. 

Gila Herald Video Report

A few minutes later, additional officers arrived at the scene as well as paramedics from Lifeline Ambulance, who immediately began to triage Simms. It took approximately eight minutes from when the paramedics arrived to stabilize Simms and put her in an ambulance for transport to the nearby hospital. She was then later flown to Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, where she was declared brain dead. From the time Simms jumped from the vehicle to the time she was in the ambulance after being triaged at the scene, a total of 22 minutes elapsed, according to time-stamp video footage and photographs.

According to the Graham County Sheriff’s Office, an investigation showed Simms had switched the child lock on the Ford Explorer to the unlocked position on the rear driver’s side door and that she had slipped out of her leg restraints, handcuffs, and belly chain by utilizing shower gel she obtained from the restroom of Lori’s Place advocacy center in Sierra Vista. She had been allowed to use the restroom by herself just prior to being transported back to Graham County. The restraints and Simms’ shoes were found in the Explorer where she left them. The vehicle was not the deputy’s normal patrol vehicle but a spare unit that was taken because her regular patrol vehicle’s check engine light had illuminated.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Jorden Simms’ restraints were located in the transport vehicle along with her shoes.

According to the lawsuit, attorneys from Zachar Law Firm, P.C. and Taylor & Gomez, LLP claim the Graham County Sheriff’s Office failed to transport Simms in a “safe and reasonable manner” and that the transport officers were “negligent in failing to transport Jorden Simms in a safe and reasonable manner” to a point that it rose to a “level of gross negligence.”

“As a direct and proximate result of the negligence and gross negligence alleged herein. Jorden Simms sustained fatal injuries,” the lawsuit states.

A summons and jury trial request was filed in June, however, members of the Graham County Board of Supervisors were only served with the summons this week. The lawsuit is being handled by Graham County’s insurance pool, which is represented by attorney Daryl A. Audilett of Audilett Law PC, of Tucson.  

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