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Simmons convicted of manslaughter, not murder, in Glazier death

William Frank Simmons showed little reaction as a Jackson County jury found him guilty of first-degree manslaughter Tuesday afternoon, but not guilty of murder in the 1996 death of Kaelin Glazier.

Simmons' mother cried as Circuit Court Judge Benjamin Bloom polled the jury at the request of Simmons' public defender Andrew Vandergaw. The jurors deliberated for about 10 hours before finding Simmons guilty of manslaughter in a 10 to 2 vote. In order for the jury to have considered the lesser charge, at least 10 had to have found Simmons not guilty of the murder charge.

Vandergaw also requested that Simmons' sentencing for the Measure 11 crime be delayed at least one month "due to additional information that might have substantial bearing (on the verdict)."

District Attorney Mark Huddleston and Bloom agreed to the request. During the trial, outside the presence of the jury, Vandergaw put the court on notice that there was a person who had come forward stating he or she had "vital information" about the case. But the defense had not had time to fully investigate the claims.

Outside the courtroom Tuesday, Huddleston said he did not rule out the possibility that the information Vandergaw referenced, but did not elaborate upon, might impact the verdict.

"We'll just have to wait and see if there is anything that will affect this verdict," Huddleston said outside the courtroom.

Kaelin's mom, Kimberly Cruz Waller, and other family members left the courthouse immediately following the verdict.

Huddleston was pleased with the jury's decision, stating there was "no direct forensic evidence" presented during the two-week trial to link Simmons to the killing that happened 15 years ago. Simmons was arrested on a murder charge in April 2010, two years after the Ruch teen's skeletal remains were discovered in a Haven Road pasture just 80 feet from Simmons' camp trailer.

Huddleston said he added the lesser crime to the circumstantial case on the chance jurors had a hard time determining Simmons intentionally killed Kaelin on that moonless November night after the two teens watched a video together.

Murder is committed intentionally or in the commission of other felonies and carries a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison, according to Oregon law. Manslaughter covers causing another's death through recklessness or negligence and has a mandatory sentence of 10 years.

Jackson County sheriff's Detective Terry Newell, who worked on the case and interviewed Simmons multiple times, said after the verdict he was glad the jury held Simmons accountable for Kaelin's death.

One of Kaelin's best friends, Jennifer Gonzales, wept as she absorbed the news, saying that attending the trial and hearing the verdict had brought her a large measure of closure.

"I'm hoping he gets the max sentence," Gonzales said. "Her life was cut short. I keep thinking about what we could be doing."

Gonzales and Kaelin met in the eighth grade at Applegate Elementary School. Kaelin was a pretty, innocent and naive young girl, she said.

"She was bright and bubbly and so sweet," Gonzales said. "She giggled a lot."

Intimidated by some of the "preppy girls" who attended the youth group at Applegate Christian Fellowship, Kaelin had asked Gonzales to join her at church the night she went missing, but she was unable to attend. Absent the support of her friend, Kaelin ditched church to be with her boyfriend, Clifford Ruhland, Gonzales said. And ended up at Simmons' place.

"She was trying to find a way to hang out with Cliff. There was no reason for her to go to Billy's house without Cliff," Gonzales said.

Gonzales said she always knew her friend had not run away. Kaelin had a good relationship with her mother, was happy at home and would never have left without her personal items, or telling her best friends, Gonzales said.

"Kaelin couldn't keep a secret to save her life. If she was going to run away, we'd have known," she said.

Gonzales expressed frustration that Detective Hugh Crawford would not listen to her suspicions that Simmons had injured or killed Kaelin.

"Now I know it was 21 days before he got the case," Gonzales said. "But I felt like we were fighting him to tell him she didn't run away. It was not a productive conversation."

Gonzales accompanied Kaelin on a visit to Simmons' property one day. Simmons, at 16 years old, was 6 feet tall and weighed more than 200 pounds. Gonzales said she thought Simmons was 18 years old, and remembers being upset that he spoke crudely about Kaelin with another male teen, a conversation that went over Kaelin's head, she said.

Gonzales said she believes Huddleston's theory that Simmons made sexual advances toward Kaelin the night of the homicide. Her friend would have rebuffed him physically and verbally, she said.

"That made him mad and I think he just reacted," Gonzales said. "I think he panicked and went too far, hurting her and wasn't able to take it back."

Gonzales doesn't think Simmons strayed too far from what actually happened when he testified at the trial, "except for the part where he did anything wrong," she said.

Sanne Specht is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.