A jury found a man guilty of capital murder Friday in the slayings of 14 family members whose bodies were discovered in his house, in trash bags or buried.
R. Gene Simmons, who already faces the death penalty in two other slayings, didn't visibly react to the verdict, but several people in the courtroom applauded.The jurors, who deliberated more than four hours, will decide whether Simmons is sentenced to death or life imprisonment without parole. Immediately after the verdict, Johnson County Circuit Judge John S. Patterson began instructing the jury on the sentencing phase.
Simmons, 48, has already been sentenced to die for the slayings of two people during a 40-minute shooting rampage on Dec. 28, 1987, in Russellville. After his arrest, authorities searching his home near Dover found the bodies of Simmons' wife, his seven children, two of the children's spouses, and four grandchildren. They all had been shot or strangled.
As the jury deliberated, Simmons' attorney, Robert E. Irwin, said he had received Simmons' permission to appeal if he was convicted.
Simmons had waived appeal on his earlier conviction.
During the trial Friday, Simmons slugged prosecutor John Bynum in front of the jury, sending spectators shrieking and ducking beneath their seats.
Law enforcement officers posted around the courtroom immediately swarmed over Simmons, subdued him and whisked him out a side door.
After a recess, Simmons was brought back in handcuffs, and the state completed its case early in the afternoon. The defense did not call any witnesses.
"I'm all right," said Bynum, who was hit on the chin as the attorneys and defendant huddled in conference at the judge's bench. "He just got me one time."
Patterson, who had immediately ordered the startled jurors removed from the courtroom, brought them back before declaring a recess.