Wesley Simants stands up for his brother, even though his brother gunned down six people.
If a judge determines that Erwin Charles Simants is no longer mentally ill, he should be released from the state psychiatric hospital, Wesley Simants said last week from his home in Dakota City, Neb.
“If they think he's mentally all right, yeah, I think he should be released.”
At an annual review hearing last month, four psychiatric professionals testified that Erwin Charles Simants is no longer mentally ill. Lincoln County District Judge Donald Rowlands has said he will rule by the end of next week.
Wesley Simants, 77, said he has stayed in contact with his brother by phone over the years. Once, several years ago, Wesley took his brother on a court-approved outing, off the grounds of the Lincoln Regional Center.
Erwin Charles Simants, 68, has gone on hundreds of off-campus outings over the years without incident. Regional Center staff members have called him a model patient.
A jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1975 murders of six members of the Henry Kellie family in Sutherland. He was declared mentally ill and dangerous and was committed to a locked ward at the Regional Center, where he has spent the past 34 years.
Under state law, Simants must continue to be found mentally ill and dangerous in order to remain at the center.
His annual mental evaluations are not public records, but Simants' attorney has said some Regional Center doctors disagreed with the 1979 diagnosis that classified him as a schizophrenic who suffered from delusions.
More recently, psychiatric professionals have said he probably suffered from substance-induced psychosis on the night of the slayings, said Bob Lindemeier, the public defender appointed to represent him. As long as he avoids alcohol and illegal drugs, a relapse is unlikely, doctors say.
Several witnesses at his trial testified that Simants was a heavy drinker. He spent the afternoon before the homicides drinking in a Sutherland bar, although friends who were with him said he was not severely intoxicated when they parted.
Wesley Simants said his brother told him that he wants to move to Texas if he is released. They have a sister living there who apparently has said she will take him in, although Wesley said she has not discussed the matter with him.
Wesley Simants paused when he was asked what he would say to those who lost loved ones to his brother's actions.
“I can understand their side of it,” he said, “but 34 years is a long time, too.”