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Murder suspect opts for judge trial

  • simko-bench-trial-jpg

    Julene Simko waits in court during a break in her trial before Judge Mark Betleski, who is seen leaving the bench.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — Almost eight years after Jeremy Simko was found dead in his Vermilion home, his wife’s trial in his slaying began Tuesday.

Julene Simko, 38, of Vermilion, has been charged with murder, aggravated murder, felonious assault and tampering with evidence after her husband was found with a gunshot wound to the head in their home on North Ridge Road in the morning of Nov. 18, 2009.

Shortly before the trial was to begin Tuesday, Julene Simko and her attorneys waived the right to a trial by jury and instead decided to leave her fate up to Lorain County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski.

As part of opening statements, Julene Simko’s defense attorney Jack Bradley said in his client’s case the Vermilion Police Department decided she was the culprit before looking at other leads.

“The problem in these types of cases is that the easy option is for the police to make a decision,” he said. “That is: dead husband, wife, in the house alone, must have been the wife that committed the offense, and police kind of develop a tunnel vision. They’re going to look at everything that points toward the wife as having done the crime and sort of eliminate anyone else that could be possible suspect or a possible perpetrator of this offense.”

Bradley asserted Julene Simko’s charge that there was an intruder inside the house who shot her husband while the couple slept — Julene Simko on a couch on the third floor and Jermey Simko in their second-floor bedroom as his snoring was making it difficult for her to sleep.

Bradley said when Julene Simko came downstairs to her bedroom and got back into bed with her husband, she felt something wet, like her husband’s blood and got scared, taking a 9 mm handgun from her nightstand and firing two warning shots into the hallway to scare off an intruder she thought was there.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo said Julene Simko was shooting at an intruder that she knew was never there because she shot her husband in cold blood with a .357 Smith and Wesson barrel gun that the couple kept in a downstairs china cabinet.

“She sidled down the side closest to the door where her husband would normally sleep,” Cillo said. “That night he was asleep in the middle of the bed on his right side facing away from her. She took and came all the way up, leaned down, put the barrel of the gun to the middle of the king-size bed, less than two inches from the back of his head, and executed him.”

Cillo noted that Jeremy Simko, who was 36 at the time of his death, was a security-conscious person, had an alarm system, and several cameras on the couple’s home on North Ridge Road in addition to keeping dogs that would have barked had there been an intruder.

“Her statement just doesn’t make sense,” Cillo said. “This is a family that everyone knew was security-conscious. Everyone knew he always had a gun next to him.”

The first witness in the case, Vermilion police Detective Stephen Davis, said he was one of the first people to speak with Julene Simko after officers arrived at the home. Her entire initial statement to him and other officers was played in court.

At times in the recording, Julene Simko is heard sobbing and crying and is unable to answer questions for investigators, such as her last name, her mother’s last name and what day of the week it was.

At the end of the statement, where officers had failed to turn off the recording device, one can be heard on the tape saying, “She probably did it.”

The prosecutor’s office also played the 911 tape from 6:04 a.m. Nov. 18, 2009, where Julene Simko called to inform dispatchers of her husband’s death. Again, she can be heard crying hysterically and at times unintelligibly.

Davis said he had several concerns after hearing the 911 tape.

“The operator asked Ms. Simko if Jeremy had shot himself or not, and she said no,” he said. “I don’t know how she could have known that.”

Davis said the operator had also told Julene Simko to pull her husband off the bed in order to perform CPR and having done that himself in the past, he knows it takes a considerable amount of force.

“It never sounds like the phone was set down or dropped,” he said. “The only way to do CPR without doing that would be to put it between your head and your shoulder, but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t fall if you did that.”

He also said it didn’t sound like Julene Simko was administering the recommended breaths to her husband when he listened to the 911 tape.

The trial will resume with more of Davis’s testimony at 8:45 a.m. today.

Reporter Jodi Weinberger also contributed to this story.

Contact Katie Nix at 329-7129 or knix@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @KatieHNix.


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