No charges to be filed against officers in the case of Jorden Marie Simms

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: The Attorney General’s Office has declined to file any charges against any of the officers involved in the case of Jorden Marie Simms.

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

PHOENIX – The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has declined to press any charges against any of the officers involved in the tragic case of Jorden Marie Simms, 28.

The Attorney General’s Office released a statement replying, “We have completed our review and have concluded no criminal charges are appropriate.”

Simms was fatally injured Dec. 26, 2019, while being transported by the Graham County Sheriff’s Office to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center for a Cat Scan. According to law enforcement reports and surveillance video, Simms managed to get loose from her restraints and jumped from the moving Ford Explorer transport vehicle while it was northbound on 20th Avenue. The transport vehicle was en route from Sierra Vista, where Simms had her second sexual assault examination at Lori’s Place after making sexual assault claims against her male arresting officer and, in a separate incident claim days apart, from a female detention officer.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Southern Regional Crime Laboratory in Tucson reported that there was an insufficient amount of DNA gathered from Simms to compare it to DNA taken from either the Safford officer or detention officer. The Safford officer remains on leave more than 10 months after the Simms claim was reported.

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

A scientific examination report from the DPS laboratory stated that a “low level” of male DNA was located on anal swabs taken from Simms. However, Simms’ claim was that the male Safford officer had digitally penetrated her vagina, not her anus and that the female detention officer had sodomized her. The examination report advised that “inconclusive DNA results indicate that insufficient information exists to support any conclusion”. 

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

An autopsy report listed the cause of death as being from blunt impacts to Simms’ head, trunk, and extremities. The manner of death, regarding whether it is listed as a homicide or else wise, was left as “undetermined” according to the report.  

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

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. Since the incident, area law enforcement have upgraded numerous vehicle to do away with an inside handle in the transport area to not allow the possibility of an inmate opening any door.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: The child safety lock on the Ford Explorer transport vehicle had been switched to the off position, allowing Jorden Simms to open the door from the inside.

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) was the lead investigating police body regarding Simms’ death and accusations she made regarding sexual assault.

The autopsy report lists Simms suffered multiple fractures during the incident, including to her skull, two ribs, and spine, as well as subdural hematomas and contusions. However, the report lists that “the external genitalia are those of a normal adult female without evidence of injury. The anus is free of lesions.”

The report also lists that Simms had remote tubal ligation, meaning a bilateral interruption of the fallopian tubes preventing pregnancy and that Simms suffered from “multifocal bilateral simple serous ovarian cysts.” A separate toxicology report listed Simms’ blood was negative for all drugs of abuse and forms of alcohol tested.  

Simms was initially arrested Dec. 21, 2009, at Walmart after being caught attempting to shoplift and was taken in on a warrant.

During her arrest, she falsely claimed she was pregnant and was having related pains and was then taken 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. Simms was released from the hospital and was booked into jail on her warrant after attempting to escape and having to be chased down by the arresting officer.

Afterward, she reported that while she was at the hospital the arresting officer sexually assaulted her by inserting his fingers into her vagina. The arresting officer denied Simms’ claim.

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). The examination did not show any signs of trauma or other evidence to support her claim.

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.

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: This is how inmate Jorden Simms appeared as she explained her claim of sexual assault by a detention officer to a Graham County Sheriff’s Office deputy. Simms requested a sexual assault examination, which was eventually granted.

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.”

She was set to be extradited to Yavapai County when she insisted on having another sexual assault evaluation because she said she had been badly injured by the detention officer. The detention officer has denied Simms’ claims. 

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

Two law firms who represent Deborah Sanchez in a civil 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.

Attorney Benjamin Taylor of the law firm of Taylor & Gomez previously told the Gila Herald that he considered Simms’ death a “tragic killing”. 

“Graham County’s job was to make sure that Jorden was secure and safe, and by allowing her to die in their custody they are liable,” Taylor said.

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