Heather Sims found guilty of voluntary manslaughter - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

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Heather Sims found guilty of voluntary manslaughter

Heather Sims listens as closing statements are delivered. Heather Sims listens as closing statements are delivered.

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) –  Heather Sims, the woman accused of murdering her husband in Conway in August of 2013, was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter by jury on Friday, November 20, 2015. 

Sims' 25-year sentence was suspended to 10 years and 5 years on probation. She must serve 85 percent of the 10 years to be eligible for parole. 

After two weeks of testimony from expert witnesses, police officials, emergency workers, friends, and the murder suspect herself, the jury heard closing arguments from the defense on prosecution, heard the charges they are to deliver a verdict on, and began deliberations.

About an hour after they began deliberating, the jury requested to see two more pieces of evidence: the tape of the 911 call placed by Heather Sims on the night of the shooting, and security footage from the Sims home. The courtroom was cleared while the jury reviewed the footage.

Around 5 p.m. Friday afternoon, the jury requested to have the charges read again for the definition of murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

The jury reached the verdict around 6:49 p.m. after deliberating since close to 2 p.m.

Jurors decided Sims was guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Manslaughter is defined as the "unlawful killing of another without malice, express or implied," according to the South Carolina Code of Laws. Voluntary manslaughter carries a sentence of one to 30 years in prison.

On Sunday, August 11, 2013, Horry County Police officers responded to a home on Old Reaves Ferry Road to find 35-year-old David Sims, Jr. shot to death inside his home, and Heather Sims stabbed. On August 23, Heather Sims turned herself into authorities to face the murder charge.

In July 2015, Sims’ defense team attempted to claim immunity from the shooting under the state’s Stand Your Ground law, arguing that she shot David Sims, Jr. to protect herself. The judge in this hearing decided to allow the case to continue to trial, and set a November trial date.

The jury was selected on November 9, and opening statements were presented the next day.

Prosecutor Nancy Livesay said the main question of the case is whether it was a justified killing or murder, saying that the devil in in the details.  Sims’s defense attorney, Morgan Martin, called the prosecution’s case a “fairy tale,” saying they are only speculating.

At 6:42 a.m. on Wednesday, November 25, 2015, Sims was transferred to the South Carolina Department of Corrections from the J. Reuben Long Detention Center.

FULL STORY: Opening statements wrap up, Sims trial underway

Both attorneys spent the next day questioning the crime scene investigator who responded to the Sims’ home. The investigator said the 9mm handgun used to kill David Sims was purchased by someone else, and had only one bullet left in the chamber. Heather Sims had her own revolver in a nearby night stand. The knife that Heather says her husband stabbed her with had a fingerprint impression, but “ridge detail was sideways, as if I had placed it with my thumb there,” the investigator said. Sims’ defense attorney made clear that the print was never identified.

FULL STORY: Attorneys spend day questioning investigator in Sims murder trial

On the third day of the trial, jurors heard the audio recording of Sims’ interview with police on the night of the shooting.  Police asked her questions about small details, but at one point Sims said the event was just a blur.

FULL STORY: Heather Sims cross-examined during 3rd day of trial

On day four, Dr. Werner Spitz, an expert witness known for his testimony on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, took the stand and gave his opinion on Sims’ injuries the night of the shooting. He claimed they were not attack wounds, but self-inflicted.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the wounds are superficial and are not qualified to be attack wounds,” Werner told the jury.

Sims’ defense attorney pointed out that Spitz never saw the injuries in person, and that the claim that they were self-inflicted is an opinion, not fact.

FULL STORY: Expert witness says Sims’s injuries from night of shooting self-inflicted

The last witnesses called to the stand by the prosecution were a bloodstain pattern expert and an Horry County Police evidence supervisor. The bloodstain expert told jurors that there was no visible blood on the knife handle found in David Sims’ hand, but blood was covering his palm, likely from grabbing his wound after being shot. Again, defense Attorney Morgan Martin contended that these statements were only opinions. The attorneys then argued over whether phone data could be used as evidence. The judge allowed it, and cell phone records were part of the next day’s testimony.

FULL STORY: Prosecution calls third expert witness in Heather Sims murder trial

On the final day before the prosecution rested its case, prosecutors called a surprising witness to the stand: Heather Sims’ friend Allison Brown. She recounted conversations with Sims before and after the shooting. Brown said Sims said that David bit her finger before she shot him, but told police that David stabbed her with a knife. In cross-examination, Morgan pointed out that the heart of Sims’ story never changed.

In her testimony, Brown also mentioned a time with Sims a few weeks after the shooting.

She says Heather got a phone call, saying the police were coming for David’s phone. The witness says she told the person on the other line how to delete the text messages. Martin never cross-examined that claim.

FULL STORY: State wraps up case with testimony from Heather Sims' friend

On the defense’s first full day of testimony, attorney Morgan Martin called a slew of different witnesses to the stand. The 911 dispatcher who took a call for an argument that happened a year before the shooting said that Sims advised her husband had been physical with her. In cross-examination, the dispatcher noted that Heather called back and asked to cancel the call.

Later, analysis expert Adrienne Hefney told jurors what she found on several different pieces of evidence from that night. The SLED agent told jurors she found Heather’s blood DNA on the blade of the knife used to stab her, along with the handle of the gun she used to shoot David.

Two first responders took the stand, talking about Heather’s emotions on the night of the shooting, and how she urged EMTs to help her husband. Prosecutor Livesay pointed out Sims is a nurse anesthetist and was actually more qualified to help than the EMTs.  

Then, forensic pathologist Kimberly Collins refuted Spitz’s testimony, saying Sims’ injuries were self-defense, not self-inflicted.

FULL STORY: Majority of witnesses testify for defense in Sims murder trial

Nearly two weeks after the trial started, Sims took the stand and told jurors her side of what happened two years ago.

Sims says that night she feared for her life, and fired a shot she still regrets to this day.

“I watched my husband just deteriorate right in front of my face,” she said tearfully. “It was the most helpless feeling I have ever felt my entire life.”

Defense attorney Morgan Martin spent hours going through the event with Sims, including the months leading up to it.

In cross-examination, Nancy Livesay hit on the life insurance policy filed by David Sims shortly before the shooting. She questioned why Heather has no receipts or records to show that she was seeking help or counseling from before the policy was issued.

Livesay also questioned why David’s phone was wiped days after the shooting.

Later on, Livesay pressed Sims on several things that happened immediately after the shooting, like her possibly moving the knife from David’s hand, and possibly wiping blood.

Sims says her focus was on treating David, not preserving a crime scene.

FULL STORY: Heather Sims takes stand in own murder trial

On Friday, the prosecution and defense gave their closing statements before the jury began deliberations.

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