OXFORD WEEKLY PLANET
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Daniels parents accuse Simms in daughters' murder, disappearance
Pittsburgh man fingered as prime suspect in family's private investigation
Oxford couple Bart and Bonnie Daniels announced today that, as a result of the arrest of Forrest Burgess, they have lost confidence in the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department's ability to apprehend their daughter's killer.
Laurie Daniels' head was found in a bucket near Taylor Creek on February 22 of this year. Several earlier discoveries of body parts in surrounding counties have since confirmed that Daniels may have been murdered as much as two months prior to the discovery of her head.
The Danielses say they do not believe there's any possibility that Laurie's former fiancé could have harmed her. That's why they have hired a team of private investigators to bring the murderer of their daughter Laurie to justice and to solve the mystery of the disappearance of their younger daughter, Melanie.
The family names a suspect
According to a statement released by the Daniels family attorney, Geoffrey Frye, the prime suspect in this private investigation is Reginald "Reggie" Simms, a 30-year-old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, man who Yoknapatawpha County investigators recently interviewed in connection with Laurie Daniels' murder.
"The local police have made a commendable effort in tracking down Mr. Simms and obtaining a statement from him," Frye told Crime Beat in an exclusive interview. "However, they let him get away. The Danielses believe—and I think they have struck a valid point—that Simms knows more than he's telling about the disappearance of their daughter Melanie and what happened to Laurie."
According to the statement released by Frye and the Danielses, then-17-year-old Melanie Daniels left Oxford in 2012 to be with Simms after he impregnated her. They suspect that when Simms was confronted with the fruit of his actions, he may have reacted with violence and then covered up by fleeing the country under the guise of military service.
YCSD spoke to Simms
Simms reportedly told Yoknapatawpha detectives that he had never engaged in sexual activity with Melanie Daniels and that she never came to his home in Pittsburgh.
A source inside the Sheriff's Department, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said Simms also alleged there might have been an inappropriate relationship between Mr. Daniels and one or both of his daughters.
"The desperation and convoluted facts in that man's allegations have angered the family, and they have drawn attention to his motives in this case. We believe the Yoknapatawpha County detectives did not conduct a thorough interview, so there's much more to be determined here," said Frye. "The man presented himself as a sexual predator, and that's reason enough to investigate further," Frye added.
PIs examine Simms' connection to Daniels sisters
The Danielses' statement indicates that a team of private investigators hired by the family are currently exploring Simms' past, including an unaccounted-for period of time after his military service in Afghanistan.
Sources close to the family's private investigation hint they may have evidence that also connects Simms to the recent death of Laurie Daniels, who reportedly approached Simms while searching for her sister earlier this year. According to Simms, Laurie Daniels stayed with him for several weeks in his Pittsburgh apartment before she returned home at the end of December last year.
"It was no accident that Laurie approached Reggie Simms," Frye said. "Perhaps she found the crucial piece of evidence that linked him to her sister, and perhaps she discovered some incriminating evidence against him that led him to murder her. As I've said, this matter is still under investigation."
According to the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department, no evidence collected thus far suggests that Simms was Laurie Daniels' killer.
"Our investigation is taking a distinctly different turn," said Sheriff's Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones. "We're confident that we'll get to the bottom of this heinous crime in the very near future—with or without the cooperation of Bart and Bonnie Daniels."
By Kemper Jones at 9:30 AM