Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said Wednesday he's greatly relieved at a judge's decision to keep a man who killed six people locked up in a state mental hospital in Lincoln.
Heineman said Tuesday's ruling to keep 68-year-old Erwin Simants at the Lincoln Regional Center would help ensure public safety. Simants has lived at the facility since 1979 when he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting deaths of six members of the Kellie family of Sutherland. Prosecutors say Simants shot and killed Henry and Audrey Kellie, their son David and three of their grandchildren in 1975.
He was initially sentenced to death, but the verdict was overturned on appeal.
Four experts testified last month that Simants is no longer mentally ill, but Lincoln County District Court Judge Donald Rowlands ruled that he still might pose a public threat. Doctors say triggers like drugs, alcohol and sexual stimuli may play a factor in future violent attacks. According to reports, Simants was under the influence when he killed the family.
The last surviving family member of the victims, 75-year-old Audrey Brown, went to Simants' hearing in September and every single hearing since the murder. "I need to be here so that everyone remembers that there was a family involved in this and that I'm alive and I care about them."