ELYRIA — James Brandau told police he believed Vermilion woman Julene Simko shot her husband to death.
However, the former neighbor of the Simkos can’t elaborate on that statement that was submitted Thursday in her murder trial — he died in 2016 at age 58.
In a taped interview played in court, Brandau told police that while he never saw Jeremy and Julene Simko fight, he thought she was responsible for the fatal shooting of her 36-year-old husband on Nov. 18, 2009.
“I think Julene did,” he said, noting it was pure speculation. “I don’t know why, but they might have been into something I didn’t know about. Maybe he was fooling around on her. Maybe they were into drugs. I don’t know.”
Officers became aware of Brandau after an ex-girlfriend, Diane Simulcik, called in a tip saying he was involved in the death, which he denied.
“They were so easy to get along with, I can’t imagine arguing with them,” he said.
Brandau also told officers that the Simkos were in the process of trying to have children and had gone to a fertility clinic.
Brandau denied having any knowledge or involvement in Jeremy Simko’s death but said he and his live-in girlfriend in 2009 were friendly with the couple who lived across from them on North Ridge Road, going as far as to feed their four dogs and other animals when the Simkos would go out of town.
Brandau also said he saw the Simkos the night before Jeremy Simko died and the two were raking leaves in their front yard.
“They seemed really close,” he said. “You hardly ever saw one without the other. I never saw them argue. They worked together and they seemed pretty tight … They did everything together.”
The interview also noted Brandau didn’t hear the Simkos’ dogs, who would have barked if there was an intruder in the house like Julene Simko and her defense team has said during the night and early morning of Nov. 17 and 18, 2009.
Brandau’s statement to officers was part of lead investigator Vermilion police Detective Sgt. Stephen Davis’s testimony, which entered its third day Thursday.
During the testimony, Davis said it was the first time he heard the Brandau interview.
Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Supervisor Mike Kollar also took the stand Thursday and said he was called to assist in processing the crime scene Nov. 18, 2009, and the Simko home didn’t appear friendly to outsiders.
Kollar said when he arrived at the crime scene, the Simkos’ dogs were chained outside and Lorain County Assistant Prosecutor Laura Dezort asked if he approached the dogs at all, to which he replied no as they appeared “vicious.”
The home also had two security cameras — one on the north side and one on the south side — as well as several alarms.
At various other places on the property, including where the driveway meets the street and on a driveway gate flush with the house, there were “no trespassing” and “beware of dogs” signs.
“Would you say this was a welcoming home?” she asked him.
“It did not appear to be,” Kollar responded.
The rest of Kollar’s testimony Thursday consisted of introducing the layout of the Simko home and surrounding property on the day of Jeremy Simko’s death
The testimony will be picked back up 8:30 a.m. today in front of Lorain County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski, who is deciding the case.
The headline to this story has been edited to reflect the following correction: Neighbor James Brandau thought Julene Simko shot her husband.
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