By Kay Quinn
The murders of her children
Click here to watch Kay Quinn's report on the murders of Paula Sims' daughters.
What she says today (Part One)
Click here to watch the first part of Kay Quinn's story interviewing Paula Sims, the first interview since the murders.
What she says today (Part Two)
Click here to watch the second part of Kay Quinn's story interviewing Paula Sims, the first interview since the murders.
The case of Andrea Yates shocked the country when the Texas woman was arrested for drowning her five children in a bathtub in 2001. Seventeen years ago, it was the case of another mother who admitted to killing her infant daughters that shocked the St. Louis area and the nation.
Paula Sims of Alton, Ill., confessed to murdering 13-day-old Loralei in 1986 and six-week-old Heather in 1989.
Sims is talking on camera for the first time about what happened to her daughters and what led her to kill them.
The story of Paula Sims was so unusual because she claimed a masked gunman had kidnapped her daughter Loralei from her home near Brighton, Ill., in June of 1986. Three years later, she told the same story again when her daughter Heather disappeared.
The public first heard the name Paula Sims in the summer of 1986. On the night of June 17, Jersey County Sheriff's deputies were called to the home she shared with her husband Robert for a report of a child abduction.
Paula Sims told police her husband was at work when a masked gunman came into her basement, told her to lie on the floor, took Loralei and fled.
"He was going to kill me. I was just in such shock I didn't know he was going to take my baby from me. I didn't know what... when he said he was going to kill me, I just did what he said,” said Paula in the hours following the alleged abduction.
Police launched a massive search. Reporters broadcast descriptions of Loralei and the abductor. Sims and her husband volunteered to take lie detector tests.
"It was it was a normal type of dealing with a crime of this fashion, and we passed it with flying colors that would absolutely clear any doubts in their minds of our character,” said Robert Sims following the tests in 1986.
But Jersey County authorities had different results.
"According to the polygraph examiner, all of those questions were answered by them not truthfully," said Jersey County Sheriff Frank Yocum.
Ten days later, the skeletal remains of an infant were found about 150 feet behind the Sims’ home. Medical experts said they were 97 percent sure it was Loralei. The cause of death was never determined. No one was ever charged.
Three years later, on April 29, 1989, police were called to the Sims’ home in Alton. It had happened again.
Paula said while her husband was at work, a masked gunman knocked her unconscious as she was taking out the trash and took her six week old daughter Heather. The Sims’ 15-month-old son was unharmed.
Four days later, Heather's body was found in a trash can in a parking lot near the Mississippi River in West Alton.
"The cause of death was listed as asphyxiation. The focus of the investigation is now leaning towards the parents," said Alton Police Sergeant Rick McCain.
Crowds gathered in front of the Sims’ home. Paula and Robert stayed away. Police broke into their Alton house to carry out search warrants.
Then came allegations the Sims didn't want girls. Paula's hospital roommate said the Sims were disappointed when Loralei was born.
Heather was buried and Paula Sims was charged in connection with the death of her first daughter Loralei. Two months later, she was indicted for the murder of Heather. Sims confessed to killing both babies in 1990, after a jury found her guilty in Heather's murder.
Sims has been an inmate at the Dwight Correctional Center in northern Illinois for 16 years.
For the first time ever, she agreed to talk not only about her daughters but what led her to kill them.
Sims filed a petition for clemency in late July. Her petition was presented to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board in mid-October and is now on its way to the desk of Governor Rod Blagojevich.
She agreed to the interview on several conditions: that she not be asked about her ex-husband and her son, that the questions center around the topic of postpartum depression and that she would not have to talk about what happened the night her infant daughters died.
Paula Sims said it was postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis that led her to murder her daughters.
"I just want to bring awareness (and) let people know this is real and I'm not some monster. I can't change that, if someone thinks I'm a monster. I know I'm not. I know I'm a good person and I know I'm being punished for being mentally ill,” said Sims.
"The guilt, I'm tormented still to this day by what I did," said Sims. "I loved my daughters, I love all of my children and I know I've been forgiven by God and I'm still trying to forgive myself."
It's been almost 17 years since she confessed to killing her infant daughters in her own home. She confessed to killing 13-day-old Loralei on June 17, 1986. She said she killed six week old Heather on April 29, 1989.
"I love Loralei very much and I still do," said Sims. "I miss her and I think about her every day. I think about Heather.
“I miss my children. I had wonderful dreams and if they were alive today, Loralei would be 20 and Heather would be 17 and they would be pursuing their dreams.
“I'm so sorry for everything that's happened, all of the pain I've caused everybody. My daughters are the true victims here."
A few weeks after Heather's death, Sims was charged with murdering Heather and implicated in Loralei's death. In February of 1990, she was found guilty at trial and confessed to the murders.
In prison, Paula Sims says she heard about postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. After talking with a mental health profession, she now believes the diseases drove her to kill.
"I'm not trying to make no excuses here," said Sims. "A lot of women have been through worse than what I've been through and they don't do something like this. So I'm a weak woman, what can I say."
Sims says she started hearing voices right after Loralei was born on June 5, 1986. Loralei was killed 13 days later.
Sims said she did not want to talk about that day.
But while Sims doesn't want to talk about how she killed her daughters, she does go into detail about how she says she was feeling at the time of Loralei's birth.
"I was afraid to say anything to anyone. I was ashamed when I started having bad thoughts and I was confused. It was difficult for me because I was such a private person to tell someone that I was having a bad thought about harming my baby,” said Sims.
Sims said the symptoms were similar but more intense after Heather was born.
"I was so weak," said Sims. "I hadn't ate in probably two weeks. Not only had it got me emotionally it had got me physically and I kept fighting and fighting the voices.
“I talked to the voices just like I talk to you right now. I paced around the house, drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, smoking a cigarette and telling them to leave me alone. I wasn't going to do it. I didn't want to do it, just leave me alone.
“I loved her I didn't want to hurt her and the voices would then leave me alone because they didn't have me where they wanted me at. They'd back off because I wasn't going to do it, I wasn't going to do it again. I never wanted to do it the first time, so the voices backed off."
She says she tried to tell those closest to her, but for various reasons wasn't able to.
"I didn't tell them the thoughts I was having with Heather because the voices told me then what about Loralei? You're getting ready to expose yourself. I had that dark secret that I planned on taking to my grave. I planned on taking what I did to Heather to my grave."
Sims also said she can't explain how she was hearing and seeing things that weren't there, yet was able to conceal the bodies of her daughters, and the fact that she was responsible for their deaths.
"I really don't want to get into that. I don't have the words for it. I am really not an elegant speaker and when I get emotional, I just can't put it into words... not for it to flow good. I'm just not good at things like this."
Sims said she heard the term postpartum depression for the first time during her trial, and learned more about the illness while in prison. But she denies using it as a last-ditch effort for clemency. And she said she's not copying the case of Andrea Yates, the Texas mother found not guilty by reason of insanity in the murders of her children.
"I confessed in 1990 when all was said and done, you know, even though I didn't know what was wrong with me. I said I did it, I was crazy that's the only way I could describe it,” said Sims.
Sims and her attorney have petitioned Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for clemency, asking that she be released because she was mentally ill when she murdered her daughters.
That petition should arrive on the governor's desk in the next 60 days. Sims said if she's not granted clemency she'll go on with her life in prison.
She said she feels blessed and she also feels compelled to educate other women about postpartum depression and psychosis.
Paula Sims told me it wasn't until after she began her life sentence she came to believe postpartum psychosis led her to kill her daughters.
In an interview at the Dwight Correctional Center in Illinois, Sims talked about the story she told not once, but twice.
In June 1986, she claimed a masked kidnapper took her daughter Loralei. The baby's body was found in woods behind her home days later.
Then in April 1989, Sims told the same story after the disappearance of six-week-old Heather. Both times, she says she heard voices telling her to kill.
Sims said she didn’t talk about the voices on the witness stand because she was in serious denial still believing hallucinations of a masked gunman stealing her babies.
“It would come to me that I would see a flash in my mind that I did something, then I'd push it back say, ‘No I didn't, I couldn't have, I loved her I would never hurt her,’” said Sims.
Sims is now asking Ill. Governor Rod Blagojevich to grant her clemency and let her out of prison because she was mentally ill at the time she murdered her daughters.
She said in the weeks and months leading to her trial in 1990, she and her attorney Don Groshong never discussed postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis as a possible defense.
"My attorney said all I needed to do was keep my mouth shut, he was going to get me out of this mess," said Sims. "It didn't matter to him whether I was innocent or guilty. So that's what I did and I tried to deal with what was going on inside of me."
Sims said in an appeal, Groshong said the defense team had considered and researched discussing postpartum depression as a motive during the trial.
Sims was asked if the reason Groshong didn’t discuss postpartum is because she insisted she was innocent.
"He never asked me. He never had a psychologist or a psychiatrist evaluate me, so I'll never know if I would have been asked that what would have happened.
“I believed my hallucinations. I heard voices telling me to do this. I argued with the voices with Loralei, it really happened quick. But with Heather I fought and fought for six weeks and I thought we were going to make it, I just knew we were going to make it. Obviously we didn't."
Sims was then asked what led her to confess to the murders.
"I really don't know. I guess I finally had a breakthrough that I did this. It was over, I was convicted. I'd fought a hard fight, and I was able to finally say it out of my mouth. I did this. And at that time, I wanted death. I wanted them to put me to death and I really felt they (were) going to do it the next day.
“The jury said no, so and actually it's really more punishment to be in prison for the rest of your life. Because then that way you're reminded every day, there's not a day that goes by that I'm not reminded about this. I think about my daughters every day."
Sims’ first psychiatric exam was done when she arrived at the prison in Dwight. A psychologist who specializes in women's reproductive mental health says because Sims didn't receive a mental evaluation at the time of the murders, no one will ever know for sure whether she was mentally ill when she killed her daughters.
"I asked for everybody's forgiveness that I could because I know I've done a terrible thing here. I'm not trying to make no excuses you know, just trying to prove a point and trying to save lives. Save another woman from coming up here and being called a baby killer, as if she doesn't have enough to deal with," said Sims.
"My daughters are the true victims here and they're on a long list of victims. This continues to happen to women and I want to speak out, make a difference. Let my voice be heard. It's long overdue and God has given me the strength to do this today.” Said Sims.
Sims’ attorney Jed Stone said she shouldn't continue to be punished for being mentally ill.
Don Weber, the Madison County state's attorney who prosecuted Sims, is now a judge in Madison County. He said he doesn't believe Sims was mentally ill.
Don Groshong declined to be interviewed for this story.
Sims said she's asking for clemency because she promised her mother, who is now deceased, that she would.
"I promised my mother I would do everything I could to try to get some relief. When she was dying, she asked me not to give up, so that's why I filed the clemency. I went through all the legal process; I've got no relief, trying to find some justice trying to find some mercy,” said Sims.
Sims was asked what she believes will happen with her clemency request and if Blagojevich will grant her clemency.
"It's up to him. A lot of my supporters believe I should be released. Of course my attorneys, my psychologist, the people who truly love me and who believe in me, and know that I was mentally ill and didn't mean to do this -- didn't want to do this.
“So ultimately, it's up to the governor and the prisoner review board and God. I put this in his hands, I've placed it in his hands. He knows what's best. He knows everything. He knows I'm telling the truth."