On Saturday, October 22, 1966, 17-year-old Norma Sims came home to something she would never forget. “Something terrible has happened, please come,” she begged on the phone with a Tallahassee funeral home ambulance service. What they would find at the scene would haunt the city for years…
Norma Sims had been out babysitting for a family that attended the Florida State University football game. When the family returned from the game, Norma went home to find no one had welcomed her. When she entered the house, the television was on; however, no one was gathered in the family room watching it. Norma searched the house for her family, and eventually entered her parents’ bedroom.
She discovered her father, Dr. Robert Sims, 42, on the bed bound, blindfolded, and shot once in the head. On the carpet next to the bed she found her mother, Helen Sims, 34, bound, blindfolded, and shot twice in the head and once in the leg. Near her mother was her youngest sister, Joy, 12, shot in the head once and stabbed six times in the abdomen.
Joy was pronounced dead at the scene, but miraculously, the parents were still alive. However, Robert would pass away later that evening and Helen would ultimately lose her life nine days later in the hospital, without ever regaining consciousness.
The owner of the Bevis Funeral Home and his 16-year-old son, Rocky Bevis, were the first ones to arrive at the scene. The first investigator to arrive was Larry Campbell, the 24-year-old lead detective on the case from Leon County Sheriff Department.
Law enforcement immediately ruled out robbery as the motive for the triple homicide, as they found no evidence of anything in the home missing or moved.
The Sims were very respected in their community. Robert Sims was the director of data processing for the Florida Department of Education. Helen was the former secretary at First Baptists Church of Tallahassee. Police could not think of anyone who would want to harm the family, so they searched the area surrounding the house, only to come up empty. They also drained a nearby pond in hopes of discovering a murder weapon, but found nothing.
With no obvious suspects, the investigation initially focused on Pastor C.A. Roberts, Helen’s boss at the First Baptist Church. Helen had quit her job just a few days before the murders, but Roberts’ name was later cleared. He attended the Florida State football game; multiple witnesses saw him there, and there was video footage of him at both halves of the game.
Other potential suspects were a young couple that lived in the same neighborhood as the Sims. Mary Charles LaJoie, 19, and Vernon Fox Jr., 21, were described as “odd.” Mary Charles was reportedly “obsessed with death.” She had even been caught breaking into funeral homes multiple times. Vernon was described as a loner, and he was even spotted peeping on Joy Sims just a week before the murders.
In the 1980’s Mary Charles returned to Tallahassee to speak with investigators about the case. She told them Vernon, who was now her husband, had committed the murders. However, law enforcement was skeptical of her motive for ratting out her husband after she showed excessive interest in the reward money. There was still plenty of reason to suspect the couple, but police never had enough evidence to make an arrest. Vernon has always denied being involved in the case, and he actively comments on articles about the case online.
To this day, the murders remain unsolved.