Erwin Charles Simants, who killed six Nebraskans in Lincoln County in 1975, has died

Erwin Charles Simants, who killed six Nebraskans in Lincoln County in 1975, has died
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 1:01 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2023 at 3:02 PM CDT
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Erwin Charles Simants, 77, who was put on trial twice for the murder of six members of a Lincoln County family in 1975, died last Thursday at a Lincoln hospital.

KNOP confirmed Simants’ death with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and North Platte Attorney Robert Lindemeier who has represented Simants since the early 1990s.

Lindemeier said Simants’ cause of death was not immediately known. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services will release additional information in the near future. KNOP will provide updates as they become available.

On October 18, 1975, 10-year-old Florence Marie Kellie was home alone in Sutherland while her grandparents were working.

Simants, who was 29 in October 1975, killed Florence Marie Kellie first, after sexually assaulting her. He then murdered the rest of her family: Henry Kellie, 66, Audrey Marie Kellie, 57, David Kellie, 32, Deanna, 6, and Daniel, 5. Both her grandmother, Audrey Marie, and cousin Deanna were also assaulted after they were shot and killed.

People across Nebraska locked their doors while authorities searched for Simants, who hid in a wooded area near the Kellie home. He was arrested at his sister’s house the next day.

Simants was initially found guilty of first-degree murder, and sentenced to die in the electric chair. However, after a successful appeal, Simants was found innocent by reason of insanity and spent over 40 years at the Lincoln Regional Center. The Simant’s case was last in Lincoln County District Court on December 2, 2022, and was scheduled to be heard again on December 5, 2023.

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on First Amendment rights of the press and changes in Nebraska’s criminal insanity law followed. The fight that followed made national headlines and ended with a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court finding the judge’s order unconstitutional.

READ MORE: The State v. Erwin Charles Simants