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Trial set for duo accused of killing Brian Simpson

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of September 11, 2014)
Crime scene tape surrounding 620 Fiddlewood following Brian Simpson's murder.

The trial of two men charged with first-degree murder for killing Central Beach resident Brian Simpson in a burglary gone bad on Nov. 17, 2011, is finally set to start in two weeks if it is not delayed an eighth time.

Judge Robert Pegg granted defense attorneys for Henry Lee Jones and Darius Robinson seven continuances in the case, beginning in November 2012. After the last continuance ran out at the end of June, the trial was placed on the schedule for Sept. 22, with the first task jury selection.

The trial will begin as soon after Sept. 22 as a jury can be empaneled. On Monday, Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl said that, as is common with any case that’s gotten the media attention this one has, it will be “tough” to find impartial jurors.

The reasons why the case so jolted the community are many. It happened just before dark on quiet, upscale Fiddlewood Lane. Brian Simpson, a 41-year-old husband and father of two was gunned down in his own home, found there in a pool of blood.

This was after the same Central Beach neighborhood had experienced sporadic burglaries over the past two years – many during the daytime – prior to Simpson pulling up to his house to grab a glass of ice water to take to his son’s baseball practice while in the bedroom, Jones loaded up bags with Kristen Simpson’s jewelry and other valuables.

Robinson, who had been outside circling on a bicycle, ran into the house to warn Jones as Simpson drove up. 

Brian Simpson could have been anybody who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, fighting to defend his property, armed with only a wooden flag pole.

The scariest part was, while investigators tracked down every lead, the killer or killers remained still on the loose for several days. They rode away from the home on stolen bikes to a motorcycle they’d ditched under the Barber Bridge.

But they came back. On Nov. 22, Jones and Robinson were picked up for loitering when they returned to the neighborhood, supposedly to retrieve a stashed gun, and were spotted. Friends and local business leaders had put up $50,000 in reward money.

After the crime was no longer in the headlines and everyone except Simpson’s family and friends had gone on with their lives, leaving his wife and two children to fend for themselves, the community came forward with generous donations in a campaign spearheaded by Vero Beach 32963 that saved their family home from foreclosure.

Robinson, who was only 16 and a sophomore on the football team at Vero Beach High School the day of the murder, is expected to testify against Jones, who was 23 and already had a list of prior offenses.

The defendants’ shoes may prove to be key forensic evidence in the trial. Spatters of blood were found on Jones’ shoes, and imprints of Robinson’s sandals were found at the scene on the Simpsons’ bathtub.

Jones is being represented by Public Defender Alan Hunt, who has recently had his hands full with another Jones – Michael David Jones, who has been charged with the first-degree murder of Moorings resident and Sebastian nurse Diana Duve. Robinson has a private defense attorney, Ernesto Luna of Melbourne, who prior to attending law school was a homicide detective in Rhode Island.

This week, Judge Pegg was scheduled to hear defense attorneys’ pre-trial motions regarding the admissibility of evidence.