The Graham County Sheriff’s Office had one job to do: transport Jorden Marie Simms from their county to Mt. Graham Regional Hospital and then back to jail. But instead of arriving safely at the hospital, Simms allegedly removed her handcuffs, opened the door to the police’ Ford Explorer and jumped out of the vehicle while it was going down the road.
The impact left Simms with closed head injuries to her brain, leaving her brain dead. She later died. Now Simms family is demanding answers and telling a story of their own. They’re accusing one of the Graham County Sheriff’s Office deputies of raping Simms who was taken into custody on a shoplifting charge. ABC 15 spoke with Simms’ aunt, Crystal Barnett, by phone.
She was a ray of sunshine when she wanted to be…Her life meant something. We want to know how this happened. We want to know what she suffered prior to this event…It’s been incredibly challenging. We are just waiting for the process to get started. We want answers, we know that something is not right with the whole scenario. Jorden was in the grips of addiction, but under that addiction was a kind, loving, funny woman.
Addiction or no drug problem at all, what Simms alleged before her death has the family as well as media asking questions. It all started once a warrant was issued for her arrest. Following being taken into custody and before her death, Simms told family members the arresting officer with the last name French raped her.
Arizona’s Department of Highway Safety (DPS) is now investigating not only how a handcuffed, shackled, and escorted inmate could slip out of her shackles and jump to her death from a moving police vehicle, but also the inmate’s claim Deputy French raped her. According to ABC 15:
DPS officials tell ABC15 that at the request of the sheriffs’ office, detectives from the Special Investigations Unit are looking into allegations of sexual assault and the in-custody death of Simms.
Simms also alleged while she was in jail, a female officer sexually assaulted her with an unknown object. According to numerous reports, Simms reported her alleged sexual assaults to the Graham County Sheriff’s Office and both were supposedly investigated by trained forensics nurses but the results of rape kits have not been made public.
The Sheriff’s Office issued the following statement about Simms’ allegations once the department became aware of the sexual assault allegations:
It was arranged to have Jorden Simms transported to an advocacy center in Sierra Vista for a specialized examination. The transport was done by a deputy and detention sergeant from the Graham County Sheriff’s Office. The initial exam was completed and based on a recommendation by a medical professional at the Center, that would require utilizing equipment not available at the advocacy center, arrangements were made to send Jorden Simms to Mt. Graham Regional Hospital before returning to the Graham County Adult Detention Facility.
On the way to the hospital Simms jumped out of the SUV according to police. They claim she used shower gel from the detention center to slip out of her cuffs, out of her shackles, and open a door which was supposedly unable to be opened by the back seat occupants. The statement continues:
It was learned staff had loosened the ankle restraints due to Jorden Simms complaining they were rubbing her ankles and causing pain. A small tube of shower gel with the cap open was found in the back seat where Jorden Simms had been seated.
Because the sheriff’s department asked DPS to take over the investigation it does not appear the police department is covering up for its officers. For example, the decision to forensically evaluate Simms body to see if there was some sort of sexual contact between she and the arresting officer and the female officer who allegedly assaulted her was made by the Graham County Sheriff’s Office as well. Yet questions remain.
Did officer French rape Simms or is he an innocent victim of a drug addict’s attempt to blame a cop for rape in an effort to get out of jail and back to her drug of choice? Or did officers actually allow Simms to jump out of the moving police car to her death. These questions and more are yet to be answered. Simms’ family now is demanding an explanation as to how their beloved family member could get hauled into jail on shoplifting charges and end up dead while in police custody mere feet away from cops who were transporting her.