Michelle Lynch has a suitcase full of disturbing stories to tell about accused child molester and former minuteman leader Chris Simcox.
Some are really creepy, especially in hindsight.
Simcox had "tons" of little girls in his apartment playing with his two young daughters, according to Lynch, who lived in the same apartment building in an upper-middle-class complex near the border of Scottsdale and Phoenix.
The Mother of a Molestation Victim Cries Foul Over Proposed Simcox Sentence
"I remember six girls, [my daughter] being one of them walking to my house with Chris," she recalled during a recent sit-down at a Phoenix coffee shop. "They were all in princess clothing."
Lynch didn't know then that Simcox was the onetime face of the minuteman movement or that he had been accused of domestic violence and the molestation of his now-adult daughter when she was 14. She knew nothing of his public life.
Instead, she saw a single parent, like herself, who seemed deeply involved in the lives of his kids.
He was home-schooling his two daughters, who, like Lynch's daughter, were under age 10. And though he was never specific, he made it seem as if he was in law enforcement, work that he did not want to discuss.
Another time, Simcox came to her apartment, his two kids in tow. Neither she nor her daughter were home. Her 14-year-old son answered the door.
"Chris handed him a very large bag of Skittles," Lynch said. "I think it was a pound bag, and he says, 'Give this to [your sister] for being a good girl.'"
Lynch didn't think much of it. She had no reason to. Simcox had gained her trust, as he had the trust of other parents in the apartment complex. And the kids visited each others' apartments all the time.
But once her daughter revealed to her how Simcox had told her "secrets" and showed her explicit movies while molesting her, she remembered the Skittles.
"For him to walk up to my door with his two daughters and to hand my son candy, the candy he was giving to my daughter for her participation," she said, her voice filled with disgust, "that's a sick individual. He honestly doesn't care. He's very cocky."
So cocky that he may reject the sweet deal he's been offered by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office: 10 years, with his five class-2 felony counts of child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor busted down to attempted child molestation, and the class-4 felony charge for showing porn to a child wiped away.
Lynch's daughter is not Simcox's only alleged victim. The ex-kindergarten teacher and Republican politician also is charged with molesting one of his own children, inserting his finger into her vagina while both of his girls were showering together.
(Note: Lynch does not know Simcox's ex-wife Alena. Allegations concerning Simcox's daughter came up after the investigation began.)
And there was a third victim cited in the probable-cause statement, another little girl in the complex, who in a forensic interview conducted at the nonprofit anti-child abuse center Childhelp, told an investigator that Simcox had bribed her with candy to see her panties and her genitals. He allegedly had shown this girl "sexy" pictures on his computer, but apparently not pornographic ones.
Charges related to that girl have been dropped.
I initially approached Lynch at a court hearing that I reported on, one in which prosecutor Yigael Cohen told the judge he would make a plea offer.
Cohen didn't reveal the specifics in public, but Lynch was informed and broke down sobbing outside the courtroom. She didn't want to talk then.
Since that day, her sorrow has turned to rage. Her daughter has nightmares about what happened at Simcox's apartment and fears Simcox's returning to hurt her. She told her mother that she was molested every time she went to play with Simcox's kids.
The young girl is getting counseling, but the entire family has been affected. Lynch herself is wracked with guilt and horror. Before Simcox was arrested (it took one month from the initial report to another agency 'til Phoenix cops put Simcox in cuffs), the family lived in fear. One time, she caught her son sleeping with a knife.
At a recent meeting in Cohen's office, Lynch expressed distress. The felonies involving Simcox's alleged sexual conduct with his daughter hypothetically could land Simcox in prison for life. The other charges could bring decades in stir.
But with the plea deal, Simcox could be out in 81/2 years, as Arizona's cons have to serve 85 percent of a sentence before getting released. He would be 60 years old then and certainly capable of victimizing again.
Cohen assured Lynch he knew best, that he'd worked sex crimes for the past eight years. The plea deal was a "legal fiction," to ensure that Simcox did not walk and that he did not have to put her daughter or Simcox's daughters on the stand.
It was "an appropriate plea," Cohen told her, with all the sensitivity of Bashar al-Assad.
Plus, the MCAO never offers a plea deal on all counts: "That's just the way it is," he tutted.
Lynch told him that she didn't care about his eight years of experience, because she would have to spend the next eight years, and then some, making sure her daughter doesn't become a statistic.
What about when Simcox gets out? He would be on lifetime probation, promised Cohen, monitored by a GPS device and not allowed near children. If he slipped, he could be back in prison for another long stint.
"Essentially, the prosecutor is saying [that once he gets out], they'll just wait 'til he does it again," Lynch said, infuriated. "Then they'll give him more time. Meanwhile, they're creating more victims."
So far, County Attorney Bill Montgomery's office has declined to answer questions about the Simcox case, or the apparent conflict with Montgomery's having been a minuteman supporter. Montgomery reportedly even went on patrol with the minutemen at one time.
Though I requested the police report on this case shortly after Simcox was arrested on June 19, I still was waiting for a copy as this column went to press.
There are too many unanswered questions about the Simcox case. One is, why wasn't Simcox's computer seized? After all, Simcox used it in the alleged commission of a crime, showing porn to Lynch's daughter.
But Lynch has been told by both Phoenix police and by Cohen that no one ever attempted to get a search warrant for the computer.
Cohen's explanation for this?
"That police had no reason to," Lynch said. "That he was watching adult porn, and that's not illegal."
Both cops and other law enforcement folk I know tell me that they could have applied for the warrant and a judge probably would have granted it.
If they happened to find child porn on the computer, each image could mean a minimum of 10 years in stir. With more charges stacked against him, Simcox probably would have been willing to accept a harsher sentence.
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"Who knows what else was on that computer?" said Lynch. "I don't know if he was videotaping them as they were watching [porn]. Nobody knows."
The computer is gone now. Someone went to the apartment weeks after Simcox was arrested and took away most of his belongings, Lynch explained.
Lynch, an Air Force vet who now teaches at a local charter school, is no milquetoast. She believes Simcox's ties to Montgomery and other power players in Arizona may be why the MCAO wants the case to go away, and she knows that Cohen and his colleagues are annoyed with her.
"They should be," she said, fire in her eyes. "Because I'm only going to be more annoying. This is my daughter we're talking about."