The State Penitentiary at Parchman is Robert Simon Jr.’s former workplace, his home for more than 20 years and the place where he is scheduled to die today.
The prison lies less that 20 miles from the small farming community in Quitman County, where Simon murdered a family of four on Feb. 2, 1990.
Simon – inmate No. 46380 – has been behind bars for more than two decades for killing Bubba, Bobbie Jo, Charlotte Jo and Gregory Parker.
“I knew it was coming. I’m sorry about it, that I know,” his mother, Rosie Simon, said last week about the scheduled execution. “I guess in some ways I tried to distance myself so it wouldn’t hit so hard when it happens.”
Simon’s accomplice, Anthony Carr, also sits on death row.
The investigation led to Simon and Carr almost immediately after a neighbor reported seeing bubba Parker’s truck parked near Simon’s mother-in-law’s home in Clarkdale shortly after midnight.
The evidence in the case continued to mount. The Parkers’ stolen pickup had several stolen items and a loaded 20-gauge shotgun in it, Bubba and Bobbie Jo Parker’s wedding rings were found at Simon’s Memphis apartment, and Simon was wearing boots taken from the Parker residence when he was arrested.
Still, Simon’s mother holds on. If he committed the murders, she said, “he must have been on something.”
She admitted last week that it’s been a while since she has talked to her son.
She used to get letters from him, but they stopped coming around the time his attorney said he suffered a head injury – a point his attorneys have used in his latest round of appeals.
“They say he’s out of his mind,” Rosie Simon said.
According to court records, Simon, 47, suffered an apparent head injury on Jan. 7. His attorneys allege permanent brain damage occurred, but the courts have not agreed.
In a last-ditch plea to stop the execution, Oxford attorney Tom Freeland filed documents on Monday with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans saying if Mississippi courts have rejected the injury claims despite Simon’s mental competency.
Freeland did not return calls for comment.
Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said the guards at Parchman say Simon is fine. He doesn’t show signs of long term brain injury.
“They say he is the same Robert Simon who’s always been there,” he said.
Rosie Simon plans to visit him before the execution. She’s anxious to see if he knows who she is because of his reported injury.
“I just wish they could save him,” Rosie Simon said. “Of course, he may be better off this way. I don’t know.”
Epps said he is not aware of any family members other than Simon’s mother who planned to visit him ahead of the execution.
Simon has a daughter who lives in Texas. The Clarion-Ledger’s attempts to reach her were not successful.
Growing up, Simon was a quiet kid, his mother said.
“He went to school and everything,” she said. “You know how some kids fight? There was none of that. We didn’t have no problems with him.”
According to court records, Simon’s half brother, Jerry, said in an affidavit during sentencing that their father regularly beat them with a fan belt and it had an effect on Simon. He recalled instances when Simon would leave for days at a time.
Another brother, Aaron, in another affidavit elaborated upon the beatings, calling them “really bad”. The beatings left bruises and welts that bled.
Simon attended Clarksdale High School through the 11th grade. After that, he obtained his GED certificate and went on to serve in the military. Eventually, he went to work at Parchman as a guard.
While in Parchman as an inmate, Simon has submitted requests with several groups that match prisoners with pen-pals. A common theme has been that he feels isolated because of his status as a former guard.
“None of the other prisoners talk to me, and I will never get used to that type of loneliness,” he wrote in one request. “I spend most of my time studying law, reading anything I can get my hands on and writing poems about my surroundings.”
Like any other death row inmate, Simon gets one hour outside five days a week.
Another request from Simon said he spends time “working on my campaign to end the death penalty.”
“I write poems, draw, exercise, and meditate,” he wrote. “I have so much to talk about with you and there’s nothing you can talk about that will bore me.”
Epps said that Simon has had 20 rule infractions since he entered Parchman in 1990.
“That’s not good,” he said. “That means he’s not orderly and he’s not obedient.”
Some of the infractions have included cadillacing, or using a ropelike piece of fabric to attempt to get items outside his cell. He’s also refused urine screenings several times, and he may have organized a fraudulent mail scheme – soliciting money from people under a different name, Epps said.
Another violation came from assaulting someone.
Jessica Quinn, a New York resident who has been corresponding with Simon for 13 years, said he has told her about some of his problems in prison.
“They take him as a rabble-rouser,” she said.
She’s suspicious of his injury and how he’s been treated there.
“The only thing I know is that he fell off his top bunk – that’s all they’re saying about it,” Quinn said.
Death row inmates only have single beds in their cells.
Despite the convictions and evidence to the contrary, Quinn said she doesn’t believe Simon killed the Parker family.
“An innocent man is going to be killed,” she said of the scheduled execution.
(The Clarion-Ledger, MS)