San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

April 4th, 2012
Murder trial turns spectacle as suspect prepares to testify


The prosecution rested Wednesday in the eighth day of a Buda murder trial, in what has become a lengthy spectacle in courtroom antics.

Woelfel, murder victim

Mark David Simmons, 52, who is representing himself, has begun to call his first witnesses. He has pleaded not guilty, claiming that years of U.S. government intrusion altered his mental state and caused him to shoot his longtime friend in the head.

Stacey Wells, a court-appointed investigator for Simmons, testified that after her research into his case he began to write her threatening letters. With Wells on the stand, Simmons questioned her experience as an investigator. He also asked Wells, a private investigator for two years, if she would be as callous as his prosecutors.

Prosecutor Fred Weber objected to the irrelevant question, saying “she doesn’t know how callous I am,” eliciting laughter from around the courtroom.

In his questioning, Simmons appeared to show the jury that his so-called threatening letters had tilted Wells’ testimony in favor of the prosecution. Next, Simmons called up a Hays County Sheriff’s Office detective who was present in an interview room when he confessed to the killing.

Simmons inquired of Det. Angelo Florian’s impression of the defendant’s state of mind during the interview.

“I felt Mr. Simmons was totally coherent and had no remorse of killing his friend,” Florian testified.

Florian then noted that Simmons went on the run across several states without thinking of Steven Woelfel, the man he killed and later set on fire.

“He killed his friend and didn’t care,” Florian testified. “And, months later he still didn’t care.”

The victim’s brother, Michael Woelfel, then shouted, “Thank you very much for that,” which prompted presiding Judge Bill Henry to order him out of the courtroom.

With the jury gone, prosecutor Cathy Compton told Henry that Simmons has abused his right to represent himself with his improper courtroom tactics, including interruptions and frequent objections to the prosecution’s case.

“If we continue to indulge this behavior it will make a mockery of this process,” she said.

Henry warned Simmons that if he continued the violations, an appointed attorney would have to represent him. The judge also hinted that the trial will likely go into the middle of next week.

Simmons is expected to take the stand tomorrow.

The Rockport resident is charged with murder, a first-degree felony; arson, a second-degree felony; and tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony. If convicted, Simmons could face more than 120 years in prison.

SEAN KIMMONS reports for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.

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