Jury finds Simmons guilty; sentences him to life
SAN MARCOS, Apr 11, 2012 (San Marcos Daily Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Mark David Simmons had his days in court. Now, they're over.
Jurors Monday evening sentenced the 53-year-old to life in prison for murder, 20 years for arson and 10 for tampering with evidence for shooting his friend Steven Woelfel in the head two years ago and setting a fire to cover up the crime.
Jurors had found him guilty of murder, arson and tampering with evidence earlier in the day. They worked after hours to deliver sentencing in what has been a contentious trial.
Simmons, who acted as his own attorney, was found in contempt three times by District Judge Bill Henry. He was ordered removed from the courtroom during Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton's closing arguments.
Simmons, who acted as his own attorney, admitted shooting his friend, 55-year-old Steven Woelfel, in the head in April 2010, placing his body in the detached garage of Woelfel's Buda home and setting a fire as a cover-up.
After setting the fire, Simmons took money and guns from the home and went on the run in the car he had previously stolen from his mother.
There was an explosion and fire at Woelfel's home April 17, 2010 and his charred body was found in the garage.
Simmons contends the shooting was an accident, a "paranoid little situation of self defense" in response to a "perceived" threat from Woelfel. He said he and Woelfel shared the same distrust of the government, and that they were packing for a camping trip when Woelfel handled a gun in a way that made him snap.
Prosecutors say Simmons was a person already on the run from the law who took advantage of the kindness of a friend -- that he was a person who had spoken in a "video diary" about "tying up and robbing" a former employer -- who went to Buda intending to do the same to Woelfel.
"You executed him," Assistant District Attorney Fred Weber said during his cross-examination of Simmons, who took the stand in his own defense.
Simmons variously claimed self-defense, insanity at the time, duress and entrapment, and complained repeatedly throughout the nine days of proceedings that the state had mishandled the case. He also rambled on about various conspiracy theories, the war on terror, 911 and other topics. Prosecutors say disturbing texts related to an extremist Christian group were found among his belongings, though his main focus was on what he perceived as surveillance from the Air National Guard and Civilian Air Patrol.
Simmons repeatedly spoke of low-flying planes, prank phone calls and various other tactics he said the government had been using to harass him. Among items he entered into evidence was 35 hours of audio on micro cassette tapes, plus a number of DVDs.
When he he made his final outburst, Compton was speaking to jurors about Woelfel's family. His parents and brother have been in court consistently -- though during certain points of testimony they left the courtroom. She had reminded jurors that Simmons "burned their child's body to the point they couldn't even look at it and know that was their son."
After calling Compton a "drama queen," Simmons told Judge Henry it "would be best if you just removed me from her."
___ (c)2012 the San Marcos Daily Record (San Marcos, Texas) Visit the San
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