Robert Simon Jr.
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 24, 2011
By Billy Davis
On a Friday night in February, in 1990, the Carl Parker family was returning from a church meeting in Clarksdale when they stumbled upon a burglary in progress in their Quitman County home.
The pair of burglars, Robert Simon Jr. and Anthony Carr, could have simply fled the home, located in the Walnut community between Clarksdale and Lambert.
They could have taken off into the cold Delta night, taking with them whatever they could carry in the family’s stolen pickup.
Or they could have tied up the family, father Carl and wife Bobbie Joe, and their two children Gregory and Charlotte. That would have ensured a little more time to escape a little bit farther down Highway 322.
Simon and Carr did tie up the family. They tied up Gregory, who was 12, and beat him.
And then they shot everybody.
At one point they raped Mrs. Parker.
Then they burned down the house. It was said at the time that Lambert firefighters discovered the bodies as they fought the house fire.
It was a clumsy, stupid crime because Robert Simon, when police found him, was still wearing the boots of the Quitman County farmer he had bound and killed.
The Parker family’s truck, missing from their home, was found in Clarksdale, parked near Simon’s mother-in-law’s home. Items from the home were in the bed. Two revolvers, which matched those used in the murders, were found nearby.
Carl Parker’s work gloves were found in a dumpster, also near the home.
The Panolian reported at the time that some of the stolen goods, already unloaded from the truck, were piled near the back door of the mother-in-law’s home.
Simon confessed to the crime at the Quitman County jail, and by the summer of 1990 he and Carr had been convicted for killing Carl and Bobbie Joe, and the son Gregory.
The daughter, Charlotte, was said to have died from smoke inhalation before she could bleed to death and the two defendants were given a life sentence for her death.
Laurence Mellon, the district attorney at the time, had said he would seek the death penalty for murders of the other three family members.
That day comes today. Simon, now 47, is set to die from lethal injection at 6 p.m. at Miss. State Penitentiary at Parchman.
Carr, now 45, is also on death row at Parchman prison for the three murders.
“It should have been done 20 years ago. Justice needs to be swift,” said Annice Harris, 76, who said she was close to the Parker family at Riverside Baptist Church in Clarksdale.
“They were active in the church,” she recalled. “They were your normal churchgoing family.”
Word of Simon’s pending execution has circulated among Riverside members, said Ray Simpson, the longtime minister of music at the church.
“It’s justice, you know. It’s justice,” said Simpson, now 79, who remembers the Parker family as “outgoing people” who faithfully attended church.
Bobbie Joe played the piano on Sundays and the family had come from the Walnut community to Riverside for a Bible conference that February night.
At the funeral, Simpson recalled singing a duet. They sang “Sheltered in the Arms of God.”
Soon I shall hear the call from heaven’s portals
Come home my child it’s the last mile you must trod
I’ll fall asleep and wake in God’s sweet heaven
For I’m sheltered safe in the arms of God
“That was the first time I’ve ever seen four caskets lined up,” the music minister recalled.
Simon was moved to a holding cell next to the execution room over the weekend, with the prison placed in a lockdown status today, according to protocol established for executions.
He will eat his last meal at 4 p.m. then, if he wishes, meet with a chaplain at 4:30.
At about the same time execution witnesses, including a reporter for The Panolian, will be escorted into an observation room, where they will watch Simon pass away in about 10 minutes for a gruesome crime he committed more than 7,000 days earlier.
“They were out of the will of God,” said Simpson of the condemned men. “You do crazy things when you are out of the will of God.”