It’s been a long four weeks for Audrey Brown.
“I’m thanking God for answered prayers,” she said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, she received news that Lincoln County District Judge Donald Rowlands ruled confessed killer Erwin Charles Simants should remain at the Lincoln Regional Center, where he has lived the last 34 years.
Brown, now 75, of North Platte, is the only living child of Henry and Audrey Kellie, who were killed by Simants with their son, David, and three grandchildren in a brutal and notorious murder on Oct. 18, 1975, in Sutherland.
Simants was initially convicted of six counts of first-degree murder, but that ruling was struck down by the Nebraska Supreme Court after it was revealed the sheriff had inappropriate contact with jurors while they were sequestered. A second jury found Simants not guilty by reason of insanity, and he was committed to the regional center.
Each year, his commitment comes up for review at a hearing in September with Rowlands presiding.
“I was apprehensive about what the verdict might be [this year],” Brown said, “but it turned out all right.”
Simants’ attorney, Robert Lindemeier, told the Lincoln Journal-Star Tuesday that he would likely appeal the decision handed down by Rowlands, but would first explore gaining his client additional freedoms.
Simants has been allowed to leave the regional center for specific reasons as long as at least one member of the regional center staff accompanies him.
Brown was in Boulder, Colo., at the time of the murders, where her husband was a minister. She has attended nearly all of Simants’ hearings in Lincoln, including the one this year.
"I don’t want him out ... ever," Brown said. "I don’t think he should ever be released."
Media coverage of the hearing was heightened this year, after all four of the psychologists who conduct the evaluations of Simants ruled he is mentally sound. However, Rowlands disagreed with that conclusion in his ruling Tuesday.
For Brown, that has brought up a lot of tough memories.
“I had a lot of reporters call this year. It brought it all up. I went to the scrapbook, and I went to the cemetery,” she said. “Everyone was kind and polite, so that was good.”