The former wife of a man whose forged will is at the center of a local crime says the road to justice for her family has been long and painful – and it’s not finished.
Debbie Williams, who was married to Murray Simmons for 32 years, told The Similkameen Spotlight that when the criminal case is resolved she and her children are ready to file a number of civil actions.
“We have a lawyer and he’s a good one,” she said. “Murray would say ‘I would never let this happen, you know that. Murray would say ‘keep fighting.’”
Odelle Simmons of Princeton, who was married to Murray when he died suddenly in 2012, was to be sentenced Wednesday, Oct. 25 in Penticton court.
However that appearance was cancelled at the last minute, and a new date is being set for Princeton court.
Earlier this month Simmons pleaded guilty to fraud, admitting she falsified a will after her husband died in order to inherit his property, despite the existence of a real will that benefited his two adult children.
Court heard the estate is valued at approximately $1 million.
Williams said the lead up to the guilty plea was excruciating for herself and her children.
“I’ve been living with Murray’s ghost and him for the past five and half years that he’s been dead,” she said. “My daughter pretty well had a nervous breakdown.”
It was Williams, with the support of her present husband, who kick-started the investigation into the phoney will.
“When we got a copy of the will my daughter Deanna and I looked at it and said ‘that’s not his signature.’”
The couple hired a private investigator who in turn found a handwriting expert that confirmed the will was a fake.
Frustrated with trying to make headway through civil proceedings, Williams called the police.
“I was pissed off and I phoned the RCMP … I said ‘even if you can’t do anything can you just listen to me?’”
She spoke with a local constable.
“I told him the whole story. He said, ‘you know what? I’m going to do something about this.’ Nobody else would listen.”
During the hearing Oct. 4 Deanna Deleurme and Clay Simmons read victim impact statements that covered how they were completely excluded by Odelle Simmons after their father’s death. There was no obituary published, and no celebration of life, Deleurme said. Requests for the return of family heirlooms and personal mementos from their father’s life were ignored.
“In fact, I don’t even know where my dad’s ashes are,” she said. “Where is my dad? What made you think it was completely OK to change my dad’s final wishes in his will, because you did not agree with what he had written?”
Williams told The Spotlight she is still looking for some of her family’s property that was in her ex-husband’s possession when he died. She believes it may have been sold and is making a plea to anyone who might have knowledge of the property’s whereabouts.
She is looking for family albums and baby pictures of her children, and guns including a 284 Winchester Level Action, a very old 30/30 Winchester, a 22 Gold Edition Browning and a very old over-under shotgun.
She is also seeking a maple grandfather clock, a full bear rug dark brown, a full moose mount, a mule dear head mount, a cow skull with full curl horns, a bear skull done by a taxidermist, a 10 ft aluminum flat bottom boat with family markings, fishing gear and a commercial size meat cooler.
“Anyone purchasing Murray Simmons’ stuff we would love to hear from you,” she said. “You can remain anonymous.”
Anyone with information is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org.