Seventeen-year-old Jenna Nannetti married Michael Simons. Her grandmother, who raised Jenna, bought a Ford Mustang for Jenna and Simons as a wedding present.Thats the only bright spot in this story. The Mustang was registered in Jennas and/or Simons name. A month later, Simons moved out and told Jenna he wanted a divorce. Naturally Jenna was upset. Angry that Jenna did not want a divorce, Simons threatened to kill her. Now theres a logical response.Weeks later, on Oct. 6, 2002, responding to a call from Simons, Jenna left in the Mustang to meet him. She failed to return. The Mustang was found burned-out the next day. Jennas decomposing body was found in the bushes in the Sacramento Delta on Oct. 19, 2002. She had two close-in shotgun wounds to the chest.
Meanwhile in March 2003, Jeffery Hamilton and Katherine Belflower were arrested in connection with the attempted murder of one Aspen Lum. Nice group of folks. While Hamilton was being questioned, he told police that Simons had killed Jenna. As part of a plea bargain, Hamilton testified at Simons murder trial explaining how the Jenna Nannetti killing occurred. Heres how.
After separating from Jenna, Simons immediately started a sexual and romantic relationship with Belflower. Together they conspired to kill Jenna. Now theres an idea. So Simons called Jenna and told her that he wanted to talk about the divorce and getting back together. They devised a plan where Belflower would hit Jenna in the head with a baseball bat, which she did, but when the blow only stunned Jenna, Simons convinced her to escape with him. He then drove her in the Mustang to a remote area in the Sacramento Delta known as Whiskey Slough. With Hamilton and Belflower watching, Simons killed Jenna with a Remington shotgun. The trio then drove the Mustang to Mountain House Bar and torched it to burn any evidence that Simons had been in the car.
With Hamiltons testimony, Simons was convicted of murder and arson of the Mustang and sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years, in case life wasnt enough. Simons and his lawyer appealed, making all sorts of fancy legal arguments, but one of particular interest. They argued, and you are not going to believe this, that because Simons had already murdered Jenna when he burned the Mustang, the car was legally his under California community property laws, therefore it was not arson for him to burn his own car. If nothing else, Simons and his attorney get the Brazen Award for having the nerve to stand up with a straight face, presumably, and make that outrageous argument in a court of law.
The Court of Appeal Opinion, written by acting presiding Justice Richard Sims, one of the best in the business, saw right through Simons arguments, citing probate laws that preclude a person from benefiting from killing another, and specifically when killing a joint tenant or co-owner of property like the Mustang.With the personal-use-of-a-gun-during-a-murder enhancement, 25 years was added to Simons life-without-the-possibility-of-parole imprisonment term. As it should be. Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter-Simon.He may be reached at email@example.com or at the firms web site www.portersimon.com. 2007