Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Police investigations have cleared officers of any sexual assault in the Jorden Marie Simms case.
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – After roughly a year of investigation, a Safford officer and former Graham County Adult Detention Facility detention officer have been absolved of any wrongdoing regarding the allegations of sexual assault made by Jorden Marie Simms, 28.
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. Multiple police agencies report that the claims of sexual assault have been unsubstantiated and have absolved the Safford officer and detention officer of any wrongdoing. The Safford officer has been on paid leave for the past year and the detention officer resigned from her position
After jumping from the transport vehicle, Simms was flown to Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, where she was declared brain dead on 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) investigated Simms’ death and accusations she made regarding sexual assault and found the sexual assault claims against the Safford officer and detention officer to be “unsubstantiated”. The report also advised that Simms was responsible for her own death as she “jumped out of a moving vehicle causing permanent damage and ultimately leading to her death on Dec. 28, 2019.” The report also states that there was “no evidence to corroborate a violation of Arizona Revised Statutes by law enforcement” regarding any law enforcement officers actions with Simms, including her transportation to Sierra Vista and back to Safford.
The DPS report’s findings concluded what the Sheriff’s Office had stated, that 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.
On Dec. 28, 2020, the Safford Police Department issued the following release.
“On Nov. 3, 2020, the State of Arizona Attorney General’s Office issued an official declination letter absolving Safford Police Officer (redacted by Gila Herald) of allegations of sexual assault. The letter came at the request of (the) Arizona Department of Public Safety Special Investigations Unit (AZ DPS SIU) in reference to the death of inmate Jorden Simms.
Simms made accusations of sexual assault by Officer (redacted by Gila Herald) in December of 2019. The investigation into the allegations made by Simms included multiple officer interviews, interviews of medical professionals, review of evidence, review of documents, and review of video surveillance. The investigation showed the claims made by Jorden Simms alleging sexual assault by Officer (redacted by Gila Herald) were unsubstantiated.
On Dec. 14, 2020, an internal review of the incident and investigation was completed by the Safford Police Department. The findings were consistent with that of the AZ DPS SIU investigation and found that Officer (redacted by Gila Herald) acted in accordance with Safford Police Department Policy and Procedure.
The Safford Police Department would like to thank the Arizona Department of Public Safety Special Investigations Unit as well as the State of Arizona Attorney General’s Office for their diligence in bringing this matter to a conclusion. Throughout this ordeal, Officer (redacted by Gila Herald) status within the Safford Police Department has been steadfast. With this resolution, the Safford Police Department considers this a closed matter.”
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.
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.
Graham County has responded to the notice of claim with the following, “(Graham County and its sheriff’s office) deny that decedent Jorden Simms was not transported in a safe and reasonable manner. Jorden Simms was properly restrained with leg and wrist restraints attached to a belly chain and seat belted in the rear seat of the transport vehicle,” the response states. “Jorden Simms chose to slip out of her restraints, unfasten her seat belt, open the vehicle door and jump from the vehicle while it was moving. All these actions by Jorden Simms and the fault of Jorden Simms are imputed to Plaintiff.”