We’re coming up on the 25th anniversary of Paula Sims being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment after murdering two infant daughters three years apart.
The case became national news after Sims claimed in 1986 and again in 1989 that her newborn baby girls were each abducted by masked gunmen and each were later found dead. In between the girls a baby boy survived under Paula Sims’ care. Two books and a television movie emerged from the case as issues of post-partum depression, sex abuse and baby gender bias emerged.
On Jan. 30, 1990, jurors decided that prosecutor Don Weber was right: lightning had not struck twice in the same place. Sims was found guilty of first-degree murder of 6-week-old Heather Lee Sims in Alton. Two days later the jurors decided they had too many questions about the role of her husband, Robert Sims, to recommend putting Paula Sims to death.
Three months later, Paula Sims accepted a guilty plea for obstructing the investigation of 13-day-old Loralei Marie Sims’ death in 1986 in exchange for not facing charges for murdering her first baby when the couple lived in Brighton. She later confessed drowning both of her baby girls to the author of a tell-all book, which included accounts of Paula Sims’ childhood sexual abuse, the teen death of her beloved older brother, marriage to a controlling husband, low self-esteem and severe post-partum depression.
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It was 1989 when Heather was born March 18, reported abducted April 29 and found dead on May 3 in a trash barrel across the Mississippi River from the Sims’ home in Alton. A fisherman found Heather’s body wrapped in a plastic garbage bag later linked to a roll at the Sims’ home.
It was 1986 when Loralei was born June 9, reported abducted June 17 and then found dead in the woods behind the Sims’ home in Brighton.
The sisters are buried together in an East Alton cemetery.
The baby boy, Randy, was named after Paula Sims’ dead brother. He turned 2 on the day his mother was sentenced for his younger sister’s death. He will be 27 on Feb. 1.
Robert Sims divorced Paula Sims shortly after her conviction. Prosecutors said at the time they were seeking charges against Robert Sims, but none were ever filed.
Veteran News-Democrat reporter Jayne Matthews covered the case from the beginning, writing more than 130 stories about Paula Sims and winning a statewide press award for her coverage. She passed away Jan. 13.
For more photos, PDF’s of the Sims coverage and past episodes of Throwback Thursday, visit us at bnd.com/tbt.