New information comes to light in Jorden Simms death case

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: New information has come to light in the Jorden Marie Simms death case. Simms is pictured at the jail here in her anti-suicide green smock just prior to reporting her allegation of being sexually assaulted by a female detention officer.

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – New information in the Jorden Marie Simms death case, including the results of the second sexual assault kit, has been obtained by the Gila Herald. 

After reviewing hours of surveillance footage, law enforcement body camera footage, sexual assault exam results, audio recordings and jail phone recordings between Simms, 28, and her mother, it appears that Simms’ sexual assault claims cannot be substantiated and that she died tragically in the way as described by law enforcement. 

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

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. 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.

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. 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. 

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.

In the jail’s security footage, Simms is shown being led into the shower area to change into a green smock required to be worn by inmates under a suicide watch. The female detention officer is in the shower cell for less than two minutes and is then shown leaving while carrying Simms’ restraints. The detention officer then returns to the shower area again with a roll of toilet paper (as requested by Simms according to the detention officer’s report) and a few seconds later Simms is shown walking away from the shower cell and is escorted to her solitary confinement cell. The video corresponds with the detention officer’s statements of events, in which she simply took off Simms’ restraints she was in during her initial trip to the advocacy center and provided her with the appropriate clothing she needed to wear for her confinement.

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.”

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

While the Gila Herald has yet to review the initial sexual assault examination report regarding Simms’ claims against the Safford officer, the results reportedly also show no signs of sexual assault. The accused officer has also vociferously denied the accusation through his attorney.

While she was at the advocacy center, however, 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. 

Still Image From Surveillance Video: A still image from the business surveillance video shows the detention sergeant and Sheriff’s Office deputy locating Jorden Simms moments after she jumped from the transport vehicle.

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.  

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: The child safety lock on the Ford Explorer transport vehicle had been switched to the unlocked position, allowing Jorden Simms to open the door from the inside.

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.