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Sunday, January 18, 2015

History of Bates County: Unsolved Murders- Janet Gail Simpson

Visiting the Simpson family home near Amsterdam during the Summer of 1985 would lead you to believe all was well. Frank Lee Simpson, an accomplished stonemason, was spending most every available moment building a new home. Wife and mother Gail Simpson, was always quick with a smile and an offer for a home made snack. Daughter Stacy was often seen taking cold drinks to local farmers working in fields on the hottest days.
Stacy (Simpson) Moran with husband
Jay leaving the Jasper County court
house after entering a plea in case
involving the murder of Gail Simpson

Certainly, in the days leading to September 3, 1985 no one could dream what would follow that date, based on the outward appearance of what seemed to be a happy, adjusted family.


Early that morning, the Bates County Sheriff's department received a call that Gail Simpson, 33, was laying on the kitchen floor with multiple gunshot wounds to the head. While Frank Lee had already left for work, daughter Stacy told authorities of a man, dressed like a clown, who came into the home and shot her mother in cold blood.

According to reports taken, Stacy, then 14, panicked and got into the family pickup truck to go get help. Her route did not lead directly towards Butler (Sheriff's department), but allegedly she first drove toward Amsterdam, turned around, then headed toward Butler where the vehicle ran off the road and became disabled.

In the days to follow, Bates County Sheriff Leonard "Buck" Hough might have hoped for an 'open and shut' case; but Gail's tragic death would be followed with a bizarre set of twists and turns the led to national news coverage and even a feature on the Oprah Show years later.

The murder weapon, a .22 rifle, was never found. A lot of questions loomed. For example, Ms. Simpson insisted that her father was at home at the time of the shooting. Witnesses and other information indicated that he was at work. It also came out that she must have changed clothes shortly after finding her mother on the floor, if so why, and what happened to the bloody clothes she had on just an hour earlier?

Missing information and sketchy evidence led to literal cat fights and accusations. Stacy's maternal grandmother Twila Frinfrock was certain Stacy pulled the trigger. Paternal grandmother LeVera Simpson claimed that neither Stacy or her son Frank was guilty.

Despite everything, Stacy plead guilty. Kind of.

The facts, as they were presented, were enough to accuse Stacy of pulling the trigger. She was sentenced to 11 years on First Degree Murder, while she only served 44 months on a manslaughter charge through an Alford Plea. Six years later, her lawyer stated in court that her Alford Plea was not voluntarily made and believed a new plea of not guilty should be entered. She was acquitted, later got married and relocated to Illinois. Note-more information regarding the lengthy story of her appeal is available at the bottom of this page.

In a time almost parallel to Stacy's conviction, Frank Lee Simpson also went to jail. Not because he was accused of killing his wife, but because he allegedly conspired to have Bates County sheriff' Buck Hough killed in a murder-for-hire plot.

For that, Frank Lee Simpson was sentenced to an 11 year prison term.

Fast forward to 1993. Long after Gail Simpson was laid to rest, the case continued to get national attention due to inconsistencies and unanswered questions. So much, in fact, Oprah Winfrey decided to invite Stacy, Frank Lee (via satellite), grandmothers Frinfrock and Simpson, along with a few others to be on her popular daytime talk show in March of 1993.

Unfortunately, the televised appearance really didn't clear up anything.

In a letter shown by Oprah, Stacy had written "Yes, I did kill my mother", a key piece of evidence that had previously sent her to jail. Stacy quickly pointed out that the word 'not' was inadvertently left out by accident.

During the show, grandmother Frinfrock told the audience that "she knows her granddaughter killed Gail" and cited terrible arguments the two had during the months before the murder. Likewise, two of Frank Simpson's sisters (by satellite) professed that they were certain Stacy was guilty as well.

Then Prosecutor Hugh Jenkins made a cameo appearance where he cited two confessions by Stacy Simpson.

Midway through the program, a 'mystery witness' appeared, heavily disguised. Strangely, Frank, his mother and sister immediately identified the man as Robert Bolts. That person, known as 'Tony' on the show, is yet to be identified.

'Tony' did reveal to the audience that Frank Simpson gave him 20 $100 bills to pay a hit man to murder sheriff Buck Hough. It was enough evidence to put Frank Simpson behind bars.

During the taping, Frank Lee rebutted by saying that he thought the sheriff killed Gail. He was also quoted as saying he thought she was having an affair with the sheriff and the two were involved in a drug deal. In retaliation, he hired a hit man to kill the man who killed his wife.

Stacy later said she wanted to be on multiple television shows because she wasn't going to stop telling her story "until he's charged with the murder".

Interestingly, just a few months before taping the Oprah show, an attorney for Stacy Simpson said that Frank Lee Simpson failed a polygraph test when asked if he, not his daughter, had murdered Gail Simpson. This information was never used, as polygraph tests are not generally admissible in court.

The circumstances regarding Ms. Simpson and the Alford plea is quite complicated; a good explanation along with details about her appeal can be seen here.

Frank Lee Simpson died as the result of a gunshot wound April 25, 1999 following a verbal dispute. He is buried alongside Gail in Scott Cemetery near Amsterdam.

The whereabouts of Stacy Simpson Moran is unknown.

And after nearly 30 years, we still don't know who killed Janet Gail Simpson.