RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — Enraged relatives of Rebecca Simmons said her wife-abusing husband, now accused of the worst mass murder of a family in U.S. history, had an incestuous relationship with his 15-year-old daughter, making her pregnant, and kept his wife cut off from the world.
Rebecca (Becky) Simmons, 46, her seven children and four grandchildren are among 16 people Gene Simmons, 47, is suspected of killing before and after Christmas.
His wife had numerous relatives in Colorado, including her mother, stepfather, and at least four brothers and sisters.
Her sister, Edith Nesby, who lives in Briggsdale, Colo., said Simmons cut his wife off from her family after he seduced his then 15-year-old daughter and she bore his child. Nesby said the teen-ager refused to press charges.
"He secluded (his wife), he cut her off from all of us, and now he's gone crazy," Nesby said. "He censored her mail. He wouldn't let her have a telephone and he'd stand there if she ever made any calls from somewhere else."
One brother, Abe Ulibarri, said his sister's situation worsened after Simmons impregnated his daughter early in the 1980s.
"Getting the daughter pregnant started all the bad things clicking," Ulibarri said. "He started secluding my sister and kept her from us. He didn't want anything to do with our family. He'd get violent."
Steven K. Sanders of Alamogordo, N.M., the district attorney in the city when Simmons lived nearby, said Simmons' guilt on the incest charge was indisputable. He said authorities learned of it from from two sources, from Simmons Jr. who informed local social service agencies, and from friends of the daughter at Cloudcroft High School who were told by the daughter.
"I was obviously shocked to hear about the final outcome for the family," Sanders said today. "And I cannot help but wonder if it (the mass murder) is connected to the deviance Simmons displayed while he was here.
"The daughter (Sheila McNulty) was obviously pregnant when it came to the authorities' attention," he said.
"We had a lot of trouble prosecuting the case because the daughter refused to testify against her father before the grand jury. We actually had to threaten her with a contempt of court citation. Eventually she did testify and Simmons was indicted."
The incest indictment was returned against Simmons in August, 1981, but when deputies went to serve the arrest warrant the entire Simmons family was gone, and--as later learned--had moved to Russellville. Simmons' name was filed with the national FBI computer, but Simmons stayed out of trouble and never surfaced with law enforcement agencies during the year his name remained on the computer.
Ulibarri said family members tried to get Becky to divorce Simmons but she refused. Instead, she and the children moved with Simmons from New Mexico to Russellville.
Nesby said a sister who kept in touch with Becky the most was Viola O'Shields of Fort Payne, Ala. Reached in Alabama, O'Shields told the Rocky Mountain News the family didn't trust Simmons because he seemed to get stranger each year.
"We had discussed that if anything ever happened to her, I would take the children," O'Shields said. "She (Becky) was afraid he would be violent."
Ulibarri said his sister moved from the family's cattle ranch in Walsenburg, Colo., to Southern California about 30 years ago and met Simmons in San Diego when he was an enlistee in the U.S. Navy. He said the two were married in Raton, N.M., in 1960.
"At that time, he was like any other guy," said Ulibarri, who was best man at the wedding. "You always think a serviceman will make a good husband."
Ulibarri said Simmons served two years in Vietnam and later transferred to the Air Force, where he served in Italy, California and New Mexico.
Becky Simmons also had another brother, Manual, living in Aurora, Colo., and a sister, Matilda Guillary, in Colorado Springs. Becky's mother, May Novak, lives with her husband, Andy Novak, on a ranch near Briggsdale, Colo.
Manual Ulibarri said Simmons had his sister "so isolated so she couldn't go anywhere or do anything. The only time she could go out was to wash clothes."