Man might be ruled incompetent to stand trial

Michael Anthony Simmons

A man accused of shooting to death five members of his family inside their North Charleston mobile home, then sitting on his porch for hours afterward, could be ruled incompetent to stand trial.

Michael Anthony Simmons is accused of shooting to death his wife and her four children in the fall of 2006. The deaths stunned the community by the scope of the loss. All the children were between 6 and 16 years old.

Simmons' public defender said Wednesday that his client has gone through numerous mental health tests conducted on behalf of prosecutors and also by his defense team. All reached the conclusion that Simmons is mentally incapable of facing the five murder charges against him, he said.

"Every mental health professional that has looked at him has said he's not anywhere close to being competent to stand trial and will never be competent," defense attorney Beattie Butler said. "He is profoundly mentally ill."

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson agreed that the tests on Simmons' mental state were in agreement with their conclusions. But her office is not immediately ready to endorse all the findings, she said, in part, because Simmons' mental issues escalated after his arrest and while he was in jail.

An evaluation hearing is scheduled for Friday at the Charleston County Judicial Center in front of Circuit Judge Kristi Harrington.

If Simmons is ruled mentally unfit, he likely will be transferred to a state mental hospital indefinitely. Additional tests also could be ordered.

The killings were among the most heinous reported during 2006, a record-setting year for murders in the tri-county area. North Charleston police found all five victims fatally shot in their Ferndale area mobile home on a Saturday afternoon. Investigators think Simmons, 41 at the time of his arrest, shot the family in the early morning. Neighbors reported seeing him sitting on his porch for much of the day, almost until the very moment police arrived. Some said he looked fidgety.

Killed were Simmons' wife, Detra Rainey, 39; and her children William Lee Rainey, 16; Hakiem Rainey, 13; Malachi Robinson, 8; and Samenia Robinson, 6.

The family had lived at the home at 1933 Marson St. for about four months after moving from West Ashley. Police discovered the victims after an unidentified witness tipped authorities off to the bodies, arrest affidavits said. Simmons was arrested as he tried to drive away from the area.

State Law Enforcement Division records indicate Simmons had a violent past. He was convicted in 1988 of armed robbery, assault and battery with intent to kill and second-degree burglary.

Detra Rainey's family earlier reported that she had grown up in the Orleans Woods section of West Ashley and worked in the cleaning department at Roper Hospital. She had attended classes at Beta Tech until an illness became too severe. She suffered from colon cancer. The couple had celebrated their first wedding anniversary just weeks prior to the incident.

Since his arrest, Simmons has been housed in the county detention center.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at skropf@postandcourier.com or 937-5551.