Former border vigilante Chris Simcox probably won't be getting any Father's Day cards in jail, judging from the testimony of three of his daughters on Monday, during the Minuteman Project co-founder's ongoing trial on six counts of child molestation and furnishing pornography to minors.
Two of the daughters who took the stand are under the age of 10. Both are his children with ex-wife Alena Simcox; one of them alleges sexual abuse. The third daughter is an adult, his child from a previous marriage, who alleges that Simcox molested her on three different occasions when she was young.
In addition, the jury heard from another girl under 10: a playmate of Simcox's younger daughters, who alleges that Simcox bribed her with candy to show him her privates.
[Editor's note: Click this link to read Stephen Lemons' coverage of last week's trial proceedings.]
The most dramatic testimony of the day came from Simcox's adult daughter, Linsey Randich, a striking woman of 33, with long hair dyed fuchsia. After Simcox and her mother divorced when she was 2, the parents' custody agreement had her spending the majority of the year with her mother in Illinois and her summers with Simcox in California. At the time, Simcox was a kindergarten teacher at the Wildwood School, a progressive-minded, private elementary school in Los Angeles.
Randich, now a medical assistant in another state, testified that she had not seen or spoken with her father in 18 or 19 years, nor did she have any wish to see him again after the incidents she described. One took place when she was 10, after a day of swimming at Zuma Beach in Malibu. She said there was an area where people would hose themselves off after swimming, and that although she was old enough to do this herself, Simcox told her he'd help her. Randich said Simcox "asked me to remove the bottom of my bathing suit" and then hosed her down, placing his fingers in her genital area, in order to get the sand out. While this made her uncomfortable, she said she didn't have a "frame of reference" with which to judge Simcox's actions and deferred to him because he was an adult and she was 10.
The next incident occurred when she was 14. Asleep on the couch of Simcox's apartment, she awoke in the middle of the night to find that Simcox was "running [his hands] up my legs toward my genitals," then touching her there. She said she sat bolt upright and said, "What's going on?" Simcox replied that he was just making sure she was okay, then left the room. For the rest of the night, she slept underneath the couch for fear he would return.
Randich testified that she told her mother she didn't want to go back to California again to see Simcox. But her mother said it was part of the custody agreement and there was nothing she could do about it.
The final incident happened in 1997 or 1998 when she was 15, after Simcox had taken Randich and her brother on a trip to Hawaii, where they did a lot of hiking. Back in California, Randich complained of being sore from all the physical activity, and Simcox insisted on giving her a massage. The massage started out normally, she said, but Simcox began to rub her buttocks, then "reached his hand into my genital area and began to massage that." She said Simcox had been drinking that night. She fled, going to a neighbor she'd babysat for, telling them her father had molested her.
Los Angeles police investigating her claims interviewed her and her father; she was taken to a foster home and eventually returned her to her mother. She said she was "completely traumatized" and did not want to face him again. When the LAPD asked her if she would cooperate with a prosecution, she declined because she did not want to have to testify in court "like I'm having to do today," she said.
She said she hadn't thought about her father in years, when in 2013 Phoenix police detectives contacted her to question her about the incident in California. That's when she learned that she had two half-sisters, and that Simcox was accused of molesting one of them.
Simcox is representing himself at trial, with Phoenix defense attorney Kerrie Droban serving as his "advisory counsel." Prior to trial, Simcox fought to personally cross-examine his child victims, but in March he relented, allowing Droban to cross-examine the two 9-year-old victims he's alleged to have molested.
In his cross-examination of Randich, Simcox made a number of unsubstantiated claims, asking his daughter if she'd received counseling before the incidents she alleged; if she'd made an allegation while young about being touched by a man at church; and if he'd once caught her with a boy in his apartment.
Randich calmly batted away each claim, denying them all. She said she'd only received counseling after the incident she reported to police. She said she wasn't allowed to have friends over while she stayed with Simcox, and that she'd never claimed to have been touched by a man at church. She did recall being "grounded" for much of the time she stayed with Simcox and remembered a lot of yelling and him throwing things. "I felt scared and uneasy around him most of the time," she testified.
Simcox's two young daughters by ex-wife Alena also took the stand. The daughter Simcox is charged with molesting began testifying on Thursday, May 19, and continued Monday morning. She seemed timid and intimidated by all the adults in court watching her.
The girl testified that three years ago, Simcox touched her while she was showering, "in my crotch area" and "kind of on the inside." She recalled telling him to stop and recounted another incident when, she said, Simcox used a stick to penetrate her. A third incident took place in a pool, she said, but her memory seemed much vaguer about what transpired there. She agreed with prosecutor Yigael Cohen that her memory would have been better three years ago, when she was forensically interviewed by counselors at the nonprofit advocacy center Childhelp. She also said her father had shown her movies of naked men and women having sex.
Her testimony on Thursday had ended on a cliffhanger: When defense attorney Droban asked a standard question about whether anyone had coached her on what to say that day, she'd said yes but couldn't remember who it was.
On Monday, Cohen asked the girl how she'd felt at the end of a long day in court on Thursday. "Tired," she replied. And what had she meant when she said someone had told her what to say? "I meant [someone told me] to tell the truth," she said.
Asked whether she loved her father in 2013, she said yes. Asked whether she loved him now, she said, "I don't know any more."
The girl's sister testified that she'd never seen her father touch her sister in an inappropriate way but that her sister had told her about being molested. She also said her father had been "kind of mean" to her sister.
Initially, she was not able to identify Simcox as her dad. Only after he began his cross-examination and brought up things they'd done together did she recognize him as her father.
Simcox's questioning of the girl didn't yield much, as the child's memory was faulty. Simcox seemed as if he was attempting to reconnect with her or wanted it to appear that way to the jury. He asked whether she still has training wheels on her bike (yes), and whether anyone else calls her by a nickname he had for her (people at her school do).
Nicole Evans, the mother of the girl Simcox allegedly bribed with candy, testified that her daughter played with Simcox's children on a regular basis and was part of the same circle of friends. She and her daughter were living at the same apartment complex as Simcox at the time, she said. While she was driving with her daughter in the car one morning, the girl blurted "out of the blue" what Simcox had done.
"Mommy, I have to tell you something," she remembered her daughter saying. Evans said she was so shocked by the revelation that she pulled over and stopped the car. Her daughter, she said, was embarrassed and confused. Shortly thereafter, she recounted, Phoenix police had contacted her because she was one of the parents of children who played at Simcox's apartment. She told them what her daughter had said, and the girl was forensically interviewed by a counselor at Childhelp.
Evans' daughter, a slight 9-year-old wearing a gray zip-up jacket and glasses, got a laugh out of the jury when, during her testimony, she explained to the prosecutor that her favorite video game is Animal Jam, which she plays "probably 24-7."
Asked what Simcox had done to her, she stammered into silence, saying yes when the prosecutor asked if it was hard to talk about. She finally stated that "Christopher made me pull down my pants," and that he offered her candy as "part of the deal" to take off her underwear as well.
Initially, Simcox had been charged in relation that incident, but the charge was later dropped. Because she is not officially a "victim," Simcox, rather than Droban, cross-examined her.
Simcox asked her who'd told her he was a "bad guy," as she'd apparently stated during her Childhelp interview. She said she didn't remember. He also asked if she'd seen anything on a computer about him "snatching people." Again, she couldn't remember.
Dr. Leslie Quinn, a local pediatrician who specializes in child abuse, also testified. She said she examined the Simcox girls in 2013 and found no physical evidence of sexual abuse. She said this wasn't surprising given that research has shown that 95 percent of all kids who have disclosed sexual abuse do not show physical signs.
On Thursday, Alena Simcox testified before her daughter took the stand. She was forced to admit on cross-examination by Simcox that Arizona's Child Protective Services (now the Department of Child Safety) had visited her house before Simcox was arrested on allegations of abuse but nothing came of that investigation. (Simcox revealed that he had been the one who called CPS on Alena.) He also got his ex-wife to concede that their interactions had been acrimonious in 2013 before his arrest, but she denied that she had ever encouraged her children to make up allegations of child abuse against him.
Alena said she has never met Michelle Lynch, the mother of one of the victims, and that it was a Phoenix police officer who contacted her in 2013 about the claims of Lynch's daughter against her ex. (Lynch's daughter testified Wednesday.) Said Alena: "I didn't believe it, really. I was very shocked." The Phoenix cop asked her to bring her daughters to Childhelp, where, during a forensic interview, one daughter alleged that Simcox had molested her. Alena also spoke about "domestic violence" and "choking" she suffered at the hands of Simcox while they were married, allegations she later documented in an order of protection she sought against Simcox.
Simcox's trial continues Tuesday, but with all of the alleged victims having testified, the most intense proceedings may be over. The trial was initially expected to go till June 19. But at day's end Monday, Judge Jose Padilla praised both sides for the speed at which they were running through the witnesses and joked that he might not have anything to do in June if they keep up the pace.
If convicted on all counts, Simcox could be sentenced to life in prison. He has been held as non-bondable in Maricopa County jail since he was arrested three years ago.
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