A Macon County couple was discovered dead by their family when they returned home last Thursday evening in a case that investigators are referring to as an alleged murder-suicide.
Emergency dispatchers received a phone call last Thursday evening, Feb. 2, from the address of 909 Little Hogback Mountain Lane in Highlands. The caller, who identified himself as the couples son-in-law, told dispatchers that he had discovered his inlaws, Kenneth and Fran Simmons, along with the family dog, dead in their home from apparent gunshot wounds. The caller believed his mother-in-law had shot Mr. Kenneth Simmons and the dog, and later killed herself.
The son-in-law called 911 at 6:07 p.m. to report the discovery. The couples daughter was also at the scene. The family member told the dispatcher that it appeared that his mother-in-law, Francis Harriet Simmons, age 71, had killed his father-in-law, Kenneth Simmons, age 71. The family dog was also killed by gunshot wounds and was found dead in its cage. He told the dispatcher that he felt something was wrong when he and his wife got home and the dog was not barking. He told dispatchers that the dog usually barks like crazy when someone arrives at the residence. The family members lived with the Simmons couple at the home.
Shell casings and a five-page-note were left on the countertop in the home, according to the 911 dispatch report and Sheriff Holland. The dispatcher told the family members not to touch anything, and to stay outside of the house until law enforcement officials arrived at the scene.
On Monday, Feb 6, Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland said their investigation into the apparent murder/suicide which occurred at the listed residence was not closed, but would continue to remain open until the final autopsy report comes back from Raleigh. “That usually takes several weeks but that’s all we’re waiting on. We treated the case like an initial homicide and conducted the investigation accordingly, despite the note,” said Holland.
Following their investigation, the Sheriff’s Office ruled the case as a murder/suicide, said Holland. Investigators with the Sheriff’s Office received assistance from the State Bureau of Investigation on Friday, where the combined crews worked to gather evidence at the scene.
An initial autopsy report was conducted on Friday, Feb. 3. The home was secured by the Sheriff’s Office and the SBI following the tragedy, and items of evidence were seized from the residence during and after the autopsy. The autopsy report indicates that Mrs. Simmons shot her husband multiple times and then shot the dog, before turning the gun on herself. Both fatalities came from a .22 caliber firearm.
Sheriff Holland stated that family members gave him permission to release information regarding the tragedy which report that Mr. Kenneth Simmons was terminally ill and was receiving hospice care. Sheriff Holland also said Mrs. Simmons had serious health problems. The autopsy report did prove that Mr. Simmons was terminally ill.
Also, Mrs. Simmons’ autopsy did reveal a single gunshot wound, confirming that she did shoot her husband and the dog. Investigators also believe the five-page-note left at the scene was written by Mrs. Simmons. The note was an apology to their family, according to Sheriff Holland.
No criminal charges are expected to be filed and the investigation will remain ongoing pending the final autopsy report, according to Sheriff Holland.