By: Brianna Bartlett
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class.
“Something terrible has happened, please come,” Norma Jeannette Sims pleaded with a Tallahassee funeral home ambulance service. She stood in her parents’ bedroom overlooking the bound bodies of her father lying on the bed while her mother and youngest sister lie on the beige carpet.
On that Saturday, Oct. 22, 1966, then seventeen-year-old Sims had been babysitting for a family that attended the Florida State football game. When the game ended and the family returned, she returned home with no one there to welcome her.
Although the television was on when she returned to her family’s Muriel Court home, no one was gathered watching it as she’d expected. She began walking through the house looking for them and eventually entered her parents’ bedroom.
Sims found her father, Dr. Robert Sims, 42, lying atop the flowered bedspread bound, blindfolded and shot once in the head. On the beige carpet she found her mother, Helen Sims, 34, bound, blindfolded and shot twice in the head and once in her leg.
Diagonal to her mother, Sims found her youngest sister, Joy Lynn, 12, still in her nightgown. Joy had been shot in the head once and stabbed six times in the abdomen.
When their daughter arrived at home, her parents were still alive. Her mother was transported to the hospital where she lost the fight for her life nine days after her husband and youngest child.
It was the owner of Bevis Funeral Home, Russell Bevis, and his 16-year-old son Rocky Bevis, who first arrived at the home. Upon arriving Bevis sent his son to fetch something to unbind the parents in the attempt to save their lives.
One of the first investigator to arrive was Larry Campbell, the 24-year-old who became the lead detective from Leon County Sheriff Department on the case.
Almost immediately, robbery was ruled out as a motive for the murders. There was no evidence of anything being moved around or stolen.
The investigation had few leads for suspects. Police searched the area surrounding the house, and even drained a pond in search of the murder weapon or other evidence.
The case has never been solved, although it’s been re-opened numerous times.
Campbell proceeded to have a long career in law enforcement – he eventually became Sheriff. The Sims’ case was one that he couldn’t forget.
The Sims’ murders were always a case that weighed heavily on Campbell’s mind throughout the years. Campbell was repeatedly hard on himself for not solving the crime and also felt haunted by the things he saw that night.
The Sims’ family was admired by their community and people were shaken to their core upon hearing of the murders. They were respected people and a close-knit family; Robert Sims was the director of data processing for the Florida Department of Education and his wife, Helen, the former secretary at First Baptist Church of Tallahassee. The family was buried at Hebron Baptist Church Cemetery in Mississippi.
With no arrests, the community feared a killer still at large. There was no trick or treating that year in the neighborhood of the Sims’ family. People became extremely aware of their surroundings and protective of their families.
There have been multiple persons of interest over the years, including a pastor that Helen Sims quit working for a short time before the murders, a teenager who lived around the corner and committed a grisly murder years later, and a teen couple with specific case knowledge that was never made public.
A few years ago a student at Florida State University, Kyle Jones, produced, directed and edited a documentary on the Sims murder for a school project. The film, 641 Muriel Court, went on to win a number of awards and is available for anyone to view here.
There is also a Facebook page dedicated to bringing the killer or killers to justice, Justice for Joy : Solving the Sims Murder.
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