Though she was to be a state’s witness, Sarah Simms had promised accused murderer Michael T. Dumas again and again that she’d be on his side in court, a friend said.
But Sunday morning, 49 days before Dumas was to go to trial for second-degree murder, police say he shot and killed Simms with a sawed-off shotgun in the kitchen of an Independence home.
Dumas was free at the time on a $150,000 secured bond. Now, arrested and charged with killing Simms, he is in jail again.
Simms, 46, was one of the passengers in a car with Dumas in September 2017 when Dumas allegedly sped after another car to return fire in a gunbattle.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
But people who knew Simms and Dumas say it is unlikely that Dumas would shoot Simms with any motive of eliminating a witness.
Dumas’ defense attorney, John Picerno, said the same.
“The state had plenty of witnesses,” Picerno said Monday. “He knows that. She did not have unique information. It’s not like the case was going to fall apart without her. I can’t believe he would do it to get rid of a witness.”
Dumas was scheduled to go to trial Jan. 6 over the 2017 highway shooting, in which 18-year-old Phillip J. Anderson was fatally shot in the passenger seat of a silver Pontiac Grand Prix.
The driver of the Pontiac drove to a convenience store at U.S. 40 and Sterling Avenue in Independence, where emergency responders found Phillips dead of a gunshot to the head.
Dumas at first hid in the woods behind a Denny’s Restaurant on Blue Ridge Cutoff, according to court documents. But he then went with an acquaintance to Truman Medical Center, where he was held because of suicidal behavior.
He was taken into custody by Independence police.
At first, the court required $150,000 in cash if he wanted to be released from jail pending trial.
But in November 2017 he was allowed to secure the $150,000 through a bonding company, and he was released.
The judge who approved the reduced bond conditions, Circuit Judge Marco A. Roldan, is prohibited from commenting on the case by the state’s code of judicial conduct, a spokeswoman for the court said.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, through a spokesman, said her office would not comment on pending criminal cases.
Dumas did not have any prior convictions, neither felony nor misdemeanor, so a secured bond of $150,000 for a second-degree murder charge was not unusual, according to Picerno, his defense attorney.
The original requirement of a cash-only $150,000 bond was “excessive and unreasonable,” Dumas’ defense argued. Picerno sought, and was denied, a $50,000 secured bond for Dumas.
The defense argued that the alleged criminal action in the case began when Dumas’ car came under gunfire first from another vehicle after an argument. “Any alleged criminal acts of the defendant were in lawful self-defense,” the defense said.
Reduced bond conditions were reasonable, the defense said, because Dumas was born and raised in Pleasant Hill and would be living there with his grandparents. The defense said he posed “no danger to the community or friends or family members of the victim.”
Dumas had been free on bond for more than a year on Sunday.
He and Simms had been hanging out together for weeks, a friend said. And they reportedly talked about the coming trial.
“He was getting nervous around town,” said Simms’ friend, who asked not to be named until the family commented.
Just what Simms would have ended up saying if she had testified in Dumas’ case will never be known.
Dumas had been at the house for at least three hours Sunday before Simms was killed, according to a witness account in court documents.
In the final moments, Simms and another person put their hands in the air as Dumas faced them with a silver-barreled, sawed-off shotgun, a surviving witness told police.
Police were called to the home in the 3800 block of South Sterling Avenue about 5:30 a.m. They found a witness injured and Simms fatally wounded.
Dumas was taken back into police custody about 5 p.m. Sunday after an 11-hour manhunt, which included public pleas for help finding him, with the warning that he should be presumed armed and dangerous.
Prosecutors asked for a bond of $750,000.