Iraq War vet sentenced in shooting death of neighbor in dog dispute
Pontiac — An Iraq War veteran convicted of fatally shooting his Walled Lake neighbor in a dispute over a wandering dog was sentenced Tuesday to six to 15 years in prison.
Charles Jacob Simkins, initially charged with open murder in the December 2013 death of Edwin Criswell 45, was convicted of the lesser manslaughter charge following an Oakland Circuit Court jury trial before Judge Shalina Kumar. Kumar sentenced him to four years to 15 years for voluntary manslaughter and a separate mandatory two years for the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Receiving credit for the two years of jail time he has already served, Simkins is expected to be eligible for parole in four years, said his attorney, Todd Flood, who had asked Kumar to consider probation and “not throw him away.” Assistant prosecutor Rob Novy described Simkins as “clearly a danger to society.”
“I read all the letters, I sat through the trial,” said Kumar at sentencing, noting Simkins’ family and friends asked her to take into consideration possible mental health issues, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his military service.
“Yet you are allowed to sit in a house with all those weapons ... it’s a lesson for society in this situation. I do think there is a danger.”
Kumar said perhaps if Simkins had received some form of mental health treatment, the death would not have occurred. She also noted that night he had a vehicle, its engine running, in the driveway and he could easily have driven away from the fatal confrontation.
“I think definitely he needs mental health treatment, he should have gotten it before,” Kumar said. “Maybe this would have been prevented.”
Before he was sentenced, Criswell’s fiancee, Vicky Adams, told Kumar that Simkins “stole my man.”
“He had no right to do that,” Adams said, choking back tears. “He (Criswell) was my future. Part of my heart.”
As Simkins was led off to prison several family and friends shouted out “Stay strong Jake” and “We love you buddy.”
The shooting came after Simkins, who was 28 at the time, and Criswell faced off in Criswell’s yard after he had kept Simkins’ beagle inside the property where it had wandered a few houses away from Simkins’ home on Sigma Street.
During the dispute, neighbors said they heard cursing and gunfire. Simkins apparently wounded Criswell in the leg and hit an artery as he tried to retreat inside his house. Criswell bled to death on his front porch, police said. Six shots were fired, including three which Simkins described to police as warning shots.
Simkins, who called 911 requesting an ambulance, later told investigators he felt he was defending himself because he feared Criswell was going into his home to get a weapon.
Police reports indicate Simkins had armed himself and chased a county animal control officer off his property Dec. 16 — the day before the fatal shooting — the same day he also had an altercation with Walled Lake police officers. The officers confiscated Simkins’ holstered handgun but did not arrest him. Simkins had 22 firearms inside a safe in his house, along with several thousand rounds of ammunition.
Earlier, Simkins took the opportunity to apologize to Criswell’s family and his own family for the fatal shooting.
“I’m very sorry,” he said. “I think about that night every day and regret how it turned out.
“No matter what you think of me, it’s no reflection on my family or how I was brought up. It happened to me and could happen to anybody.”