by JEN BIUNDO
A suspect in a Buda homicide and arson was arrested Tuesday in the Ozarks town of Branson, Missouri after an eight and a half hour standoff with police.
Branson police arrested Mark David Simmons, 51, after he exited his room at the Walnut Lane Motel and surrendered peacefully around 3 p.m.
“The police chief guaranteed that if walked out with his hands on his head, that would not happen,” Adams said.
Last month, Hays County investigators issued a capital murder warrant for Simmons, who is accused of murdering his business partner Steven Woelfel in April, then setting Woelfel’s detached garage on fire about a week later on April 17 to cover up the crime. Simmons is also believed to have rigged an explosion in the main portion of the house that may have been targeted at first responders arriving on the scene.
Branson police say that Simmons is suspected of robbing a Super 8 motel at gunpoint Sunday night, after unsuccessfully attempting to rob the Spinning Wheel motel earlier in the evening.
Patrolling the motel where Simmons was staying, Branson police found the silver-blue 2008 Hyundai Sonata believed to be used in the Branson robberies. Investigators ran the plates on the car and tied the vehicle to the Hays County case.
Simmons’ mother, Wanda Simmons, had said that her son stole the Hyundai her from her home in Rockport, Texas, on April 1, the last time she saw him.
The standoff began at about 6:30 Tuesday morning. Simmons spent the day holed up in room #20 of the Walnut Lane Motel, speaking with negotiators frequently over the phone, as police evacuated the motel and shut down the surrounding streets. He surrendered peacefully eight and a half hours into the standoff and was arrested by Branson Police Chief Carroll McCullough and turned over to US Marshals.
“Our police department did a wonderful job in using patience and negotiating his surrender,” Adams said.
Hays County Spokesperson Mike Thielan said Tuesday that Hays County detectives were en route to Missouri to collect evidence and work with Branson police on the investigation.
Simmons will likely be extradited back to Texas, Thielan said. Prosecutors could choose to seek the death penalty against him in the capital murder case.
He also is facing an active warrant for unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. In 2008, Simmons completed 10 years probation for prohibited weapons charges in College Station, Texas, according to Brazos County court records. He told investigators he was a racist and was collecting weapons for the upcoming racial war.
Simmons’ mother described her son as an unmedicated paranoid schizophrenic.
JEN BIUNDO is managing editor of the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Mercury and the Free Press.Email | Print