I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
The woman’s voice was shrill and panicked. “Let me in! Please, let me in!”
Minnie Gray didn’t recognize the voice and no one was visible as she looked through the peephole of her front door. “Who is it?,” she asked.
“It’s Paula," came the excited reply.
It was Paula Marie Sims, Minnie’s next door neighbor.
They Stole My Baby!
“They stole my baby!," Paula breathlessly shouted at her neighbor.
“Who?,” asked Minnie, becoming frantic herself.
Paula was beginning to hyperventilate and between breaths she repeated, “They stole my baby!” over and over again.
Paula told Minnie that as she watched the evening news, a masked gunman entered her home and told her to lay on the floor for ten minutes or he would kill her. Paula said she was terrified and did as she was told. She said when the man left, he had taken her 13 day-old daughter, Loralei Marie Sims. Paula told Minnie she chased the unidentified man down the driveway but he had disappeared into the darkness.
As Minnie’s husband, overhearing Paula's frantic story, called the Jersey County Sheriff’s Department to report the abduction, Paula rushed home to find her husband’s telephone number at work. Minnie accompanied Paula back to her home and she pointed out where Lorlei was sleeping and the door the abductor used to gain entry.
Minnie felt unsettled by Paula’s story. Something just didn’t feel right. For one, she noticed the baby’s blanket in the bassinet was neatly folded back.
Robert Sims hurried home after his supervisor at the factory called him to the phone and Paula told him, between quick breaths and uncontrollable crying, someone had kidnapped their daughter.
By the time Robert arrived, police were already scouring his home for clues. A frantic Paula ran up to her husband and said, “Rob, I’m so sorry I disappointed you.” When her husband tried to reassure her, Paula continued on. “You were disappointed when Loralei was a girl, and I disappointed you because I didn’t stop the man from taking her.” Realizing several officers were listening to their conversation, Rob leaned over and whispered something in Paula’s ear.
Their conversations would only be in private afterwards but Paula's words “you were disappointed when Loralei was a girl” would resound in detectives' minds for a very long time.
Police were desperate to find the infant, but her parents weren’t being cooperative with police. Rob spoke in a low monotone and Paula was inconsolable. With what little they were able to pull from the hysterical mother, however, they were beginning to feel a lot like Minnie Gray: something just didn’t feel right.
As soon as the sun rose on Wednesday, June 18, 1986, police stepped up their search efforts by bringing in scent-tracking dogs, sent planes up for an aerial view search, and divers donned wet-suits to began searching the pond at the rear of the Sims’ home.
As the divers were getting into their suits, police noticed Paula and her family standing on the porch and they continually stared in the pond’s direction. When an officer approached Paula and suggested now would be a good time to go with deputies and give her official statement, Paula said something that made the hair on the back of his neck stand straight up. She said, “No, I want to be here when they bring her body up.” Realizing immediately what she had said, Paula corrected herself, “No, that’s not what I mean. I mean, my baby is alive and I want to be here when they bring her onto the porch.”
Searchers found nothing that day, but they continued to search and they persisted in their questioning of Robert and Paula, especially hoping the baby's mother would remember something which could help them find Loralei. The Sims eventually hired an attorney to stop the investigators relentless questioning.
On Tuesday, June 24, 1986, a week after Loralei’s disappearance, searchers were still milling about the area surrounding the Sims’ home, looking for their daughter. Rob was standing nearby when one of the detectives pondered aloud whether the wooded area had yet been searched. Rob responded by saying the woods was covered in poison ivy and he didn’t recommend anyone search there for very long lest they have a miserable reaction. The detective found the comments strange and soon thereafter ordered the dogs be taken into the woods to search for Loralei. Just a short distance in, the dog began barking.
Baby Loralei had been found.
A New, Private Life
After burying their infant daughter, Robert and Paula quietly left Brighton and moved into a new home at 1053 Washington Avenue in Alton, Illinois. Neighbors at their new home were blissfully unaware of the Sims’ history or that many area investigators believed the couple - at least Paula, had gotten away with murder.
When the Simses welcomed a second child into their home, a son they named Randall Troy, in 1988, Rob built a privacy fence around the property to keep the backyard out of view of neighbors. Paula hung curtains and blinds which always stayed pulled tight. Later neighbors would say they hardly ever saw anyone outside the house, not even the mother and her young son.
The Sims were living a private - some would say reclusive, life trying to stay out of the spotlight they’d been in just a couple of years before.
Until 1989, when it happened again.
They Took My Other Daughter!
On March 18, 1989, Paula gave birth to her third child, a second daughter, Heather Lee Sims. Her life would prove to be only slightly longer than that of her older sister.
Heather was six weeks old when Rob came home from work on April 29, 1989, and found his wife lying unconscious on the kitchen floor. Flashing back to three years before, Rob ran to his daughters bassinet and discovered it empty. He returned to his wife, trying to arouse her, screaming, “Where is Heather? Paula, where is Heather?” When Paula finally came to, she answered the baby was in her bassinet. When Rob responded Heather was not in her bed, they both ran upstairs to check on their son, whom they found sleeping safe and sound in his room.
Again 911 was called and Paula was taken to the Alton police department in hopes of gaining as much information about the “kidnapping” as possible. Meanwhile, other officers continued to search the Sims home looking for evidence as Rob followed them around, watching their every move.
Detectives who questioned Paula were surprised by her demeanor. Unlike the hysterical woman she had been three years ago, this woman was very calm and laid back. She casually smoked while answering the investigators’ questions with simple, unhelpful answers.
Although Robert had said he intended to call his attorney before Paula went with the officers, she, as yet, had not requested such but cops knew it wouldn’t be long before she did.
Outside the police precinct, the news of the disappearance of Heather Sims was big news and especially so when reporters realized the missing child's parents were Paula and Robert. While some prayed for the return of an abducted infant, others began keeping an eye out for the body of baby girl, certain the Sims had murdered a second child.
They weren't wrong.
On Wednesday, May 9, 1989, a fisherman had noticed a lone trash bag in a recreational park's bin and something nagged at him to check it out. He was appalled when his mind finally understood what his eyes were seeing.
Inside were the remains of Heather Lee Sims.
Paula Sims Guilty!
Just as with Loralei, Heather had died of asphyxiation, most likely because of a hand or blanket being pressed firmly against her nose and mouth.
Fearing for the safety of the Sims’ only surviving child, little Randy was removed from his parents’ home, which witnesses said seemed to have a greater emotional impact on the couple than the death of their daughters.
It didn't take much effort to prove the trash bag in which Heather had been found had been made from the same roll of those currently being used by the Sims.
Confronted with the evidence and its obvious meaning, Robert finally broke down and admitted he believed Paula had killed their daughters. He had not wanted to believe his wife capable of murder, but maybe she was.
Trying to elicit a possible motive from Robert, they asked him about life before Heather’s birth. Robert admitted he and Randy slept in a bedroom separate from Paula and Heather, but after her abduction they had resumed sleeping together. Then, to the shock of the investigator questioning him, Robert said, “On Monday or Tuesday, Paula and I had the best and longest-lasting sex we’ve had in a long time.”
They couldn’t gather enough evidence to arrest Robert, but they did have enough for Paula. She was arrested on Sunday, July 2, 1989. The state announced soon afterwards they intended to seek the death penalty in the Paula Sims case.
The trial of State of Illinois vs. Paula Marie Sims began on Monday, January 8, 1990. It came to a close just a few days shy of a month later on February 2, when a jury found Paula guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of obstructing justice, and one count of concealing homicide.
Although jurors believed prosecutors' claims Paula had killed Loralei and Heather simply because they were girls, a gender that was a disappointment to their father, they deadlocked during the sentencing phase and, as such, the Judge made a compromise, of sorts, and sentenced Paula to life sentences without possibility of parole.
As of this writing, Paula Sims is incarcerated at the Dwight Correctional Facility in Dwight, Illinois.
In August 1990, Robert filed for divorce. As part of their divorce agreement, Rob was required to bring their son Randy to visit her once a month in prison. It was reported that during one of those visits, Randy asked his mother why she had killed his sisters. Paula accused Robert of putting Randy up to asking the question.
A little more than two years after her conviction, Paula admitted to murdering her infant daughters, claiming she was trying to please Robert who had been upset at the birth of daughters instead of sons.
By August 1994, however, Paula claimed, in a pro se post-conviction relief petition, she had suffered from postpartum psychosis and didn’t understand her actions, at the time, were wrong. Her petition was denied.
As if to back up her claim, Paula confessed to almost killing Randy one night. According to her, “He was crying and I had tried everything I knew to comfort him but nothing was working. Before I knew it I snapped and laid him down in the playpen and yelled at him to be quiet and then I threatened him, he quit crying immediately. His eyes got big and he just stared at me. I quickly picked him up, held him closer to me, and told him I was so sorry; I didn’t mean it. I believe it was this sudden adrenaline rush and Randy’s reaction, along with actually hearing me threaten him which brought me out of postpartum depression, psychosis. Just enough to save Randy from the terrible fate of his sister.”
In 2007, Paula petitioned for clemency. Fortunately, her request was denied.
Robert and Randy were killed in a Jackson, Mississippi car accident in 2015.
In the Media
In 1992, Don Weber and Charles Bosworth, Jr. published Precious Victims, an excellent book about Paula Sims and the death of her two infant daughters. Their books inspired a 1993 made-for-television movie by the same name.
What Are Your Thoughts?
© 2016 Kim Bryan
Alex on January 26, 2019:
I honestly don't buy her claim of mental illness. In fact, most of what she says sounds like a lie. Her behavior before and after her daughter's deaths does not resemble someone who is suffering from mental illness. Her lies to the police, all the energy she put into covering up her crimes and staging the scene to fit her story just aren't the actions of someone who is mentally ill. The story about almost harming her son sounds like a story she just made up after the fact to support her mentally ill claim. She also lied about the way she killed her children. The medical examiner found that both girls died as a result of suffocation yet she continues to claim she drowned them. She also continues to lie about putting her youngest daughters remains in the freezer which was also evident to the medical examiner upon examination.
I think she looked upon her daughters with disgust. She didn't think their lives were worth anything because they were girls. I think she murdered them in cold blood with a clear mind and she knew that what she was doing was wrong as evidenced by her attempts to cover it up.
What disgusts me most is that even after all this time she doesn't seem to feel any regret, sadness or guilt about her actions. If she did, she would not be trying to get released from prison especially by telling these lies. If she had truly repented she'd tell the full truth, apologize for her actions and accept the life sentence.
Shirley on January 12, 2019:
This woman should have gotten a death sentence.
Suzie from Carson City on September 18, 2018:
Kim, my friend......Nice tale about your average American family, livin & lovin life and keeping the local female population down to a minimum. It was quite difficult to keep reading this, so I pretended it was a bizarre fiction novel in order to get to the end.
Good Lord, help me find the words. WTF can possibly be so wrong with the minds of some friggin white trash Morons?/!
Of course the woman is a psycho and damned-sure her low-life husband knew it! Lovely picture of inmate Paula Sims (at age 50-ish according to the article linked by Diego) The freak doesn't look a day over 89. Hope she soon begins to rot. Too bad the son had to die in an accident with his ignorant father & some drunken slut driving the car.
Here's to whatever it is they call a family beyond dysfunctional & terribly sick!..... (I HATE that her name is Paula!!)
Leah Harageones from Lawrenceville on August 05, 2017:
The podcast True Crime Brewery did an episode about that. I think her husband knew she did it and tried to cover for her. Check it out if you get the chance.
Buddy678 on March 26, 2017:
Kim Bryan (author) on January 12, 2017:
Thanks for the update, @Diego. Just wow.
Diego on August 05, 2016:
Father and son killed in DUI crash
Nicole Young 07 from Chicago Illinois on April 20, 2016:
This is so heartless, being able to kill two of her children just because she wanted a son and not a daughter...what in the world is she thinking...it just makes no sense at all