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Posted on Thu, Dec. 04, 2003 story:PUB_DESC
Fort Worth man, 68, gets 13 years in wife's slaying

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Just before jury selection was to begin in his murder trial this week, a 68-year-old Fort Worth man struck a deal with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to killing his wife and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Lee Sims shot his 66-year-old wife, Thelma, in the head on July 12, 2002, in a bathroom of their home in the 10100 block of Buffalo Grove Road. Afterward, he called 911 and told dispatchers what he had done, officials said.

His wife, a Holiday Inn waitress, was taken to a Fort Worth hospital, where she died two days later.

Sims, a retired security guard, was arrested after he confessed to police again, authorities said.

Sims accepted prosecutors' plea bargain offer Tuesday morning as potential jurors sat outside state District Judge James Wilson's courtroom awaiting jury selection, officials said.

Prosecutor Lisa Haines, who handled the case with Lisa Callaghan, said relatives were satisfied with the plea bargain, saying they just wanted Sims, who is in poor health, to spend the rest of his days in prison.

"The family and our office had a concern that this man, just before Christmas, might get sympathy -- and probation," Haines said. "As ridiculous as that sounds, juries can and do give probation when a husband kills a wife.

"Husbands don't always receive just punishment from a jury. I spoke with all of the four children, and we all agreed that a 13-year sentence will keep him in prison until the day he dies."

Haines characterized Sims as a mean, quick-tempered, domineering man who would fly off the handle over minor things.

Two days before Thelma Sims' death, Haines said, the couple had been awarded custody of their grandchild -- something that Sims was not in favor of because he was jealous of the time his wife would devote to the baby.

"I think the thing that pushed him over the top was having this child come into the home," Haines said. "In my opinion, he thought Thelma's time was going to be shared among the baby and him. Thelma was going to have to divide her time between feeding the baby and feeding the husband.

"The world revolved around him. It was, 'My way or the highway.' "

Defense attorney Ken Cutrer offered a different scenario. He said Sims had a stroke in 1997 that caused some brain damage and left him physically disabled and depressed.

Cutrer said Sims was prescribed painkillers and antidepressants, mainly Paxil, which has a tendency to cause violent outbursts.

"I think the combined effects of the stroke and antidepressants he was taking severely impacted his ability to think and to reason," Cutrer said. "He was under an impression that his wife was going to put him in a nursing home, and probably the grandchild coming into the home was a stressor."

Cutrer said that Sims' conduct does not meet the legal definition of insanity and that prosecutors produced information that he had past violent behavior, which "cut into my case."

"They offered 15 years, and we were going to take 10," Cutrer said. "We met in the middle and did 13. I thought it was a fair deal. Even if we had gotten probation, he had no place to go.

"It's a terribly sad case. I'm just glad we were able to meet in the middle somewhere."

Melody McDonald, (817) 390-7386
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