By Andy Jackson
MULESHOE — Family members of Vince Simnacher believe justice was served Friday when a Bailey County jury convicted a Muleshoe man of capital murder.
Larry Kitchens, 53, was found guilty after 45 minutes of jury deliberation and sentenced to life in prison, according to 287th District Attorney Johnny Actkinson. Actkinson said Kitchens will be eligible for parole in 40 years.
Kitchens drove to Simnacher’s home with an assault rifle in October 2003 and shot and killed Simnacher, 61, Kitchen’s ex-wife, Rhonda Kitchens, 48, and Derwin Wyn Beauchamp, 43, during a social gathering, according to Sgt. Dusty McCord of the Texas Rangers.
Kitchen’s was acquitted of murder in connection with Beauchamp’s death in August 2004. A Texas judge ruled this summer Kitchens couldn’t be tried in connection with his ex-wife’s death due to double jeopardy.
“Now we’re ready to get on and put this behind us,” said Simnacher’s daughter, Shirley Robinson.
Robinson, 41, said she isn’t a proponent of the death penalty in this case.
“He (Kitchens) should have to sit in jail for the rest of his life and think about what he did,” she said.
Kitchen’s counsel, Richard Wardroup said in opening statements of Kitchens’ murder trial of Beauchamp, that Kitchens went to Simnacher’s home in the “heat of passion” before shooting and killing Simnacher, according to previous CNJ reports.
Wardroup could not be reached Friday for comment.
Actkinson said it was the first triple homicide he’s tried in 24 years as district attorney. He said the jury makeup was “pretty similar” for the Beauchamp and Simnacher trials.
Actkinson said that, even though the case was highly publicized, “they (the jury) were told to decide this case based on what they heard inside the courtroom,” Actkinson said.
Charlotte Holt, who was friends with Rhonda June Kitchens for 30 years, did not attend the trial.
“I went to all three funerals,” she said. “My kids grew up with Rhonda’s kids.”
Though Holt thinks Kitchens should have faced the death penalty, she said, “I do think justice was served.”
Tona Simnacher, who was married to Simnacher for 36 years before their divorce, said she was happy with the jury’s decision.
“I’m happy for Rhonda and Derwin’s families; we all stood together to get justice,” she said.