Did She Strangle Thomas Burns and Put His Body in a Freezer?

Samantha simmons booking photo mugshot
Pictured: Samantha Simmons

Samantha Simmons will stand trial tomorrow Monday, September 19th, for the May 2018 murder of Thomas Burns. Burns’ (54) body was found in a freezer at his home on the 1200 block of Purvis-Oloh Road after family members reported him missing and conducted a search of his residence the next day. They discovered items were missing from the home and found Davis’ body in a freezer. The Lamar County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation, and four individuals were arrested in connection to the stolen property from the residence.

Samantha Simmons of Purvis, who was 36 at the time, was charged with grand larceny over $25,000. James Simmons (59) of Purvis was arrested and charged with two counts of grand larceny and probation violation. Andy Hartfield (51) of Purvis was charged with receiving stolen property. Will Bryson (23) of Purvis was charged with receiving stolen property. Samantha Simmons was subsequently charged with Davis’ murder after investigators received the state medical examiner’s report. Davis’ cause of death was ruled asphyxiation.

Thomas burns lamar county hattiesburg
Pictured Thomas Burns

Simmons was held without bond for over a year after her initial arrest, until a grand jury indicted her on October 8th, 2019, and she was given a $45,000 bond on the murder and larceny charge by Circuit Judge Prentiss Harrell on October 17th, 2019. Circuit Judge Anthony Mozingo has presided over pretrial motions and will preside over the trial.

Hattiesburg Attorney Thomas Fortner and Purvis attorney Scotty Chabert represent Simmons. Fortner is widely known as one of Mississippi’s top criminal defense attorneys in the state. Some 30 years ago, Fortner was instrumental in establishing the Hinds County Public Defenders’ Office. Fortner currently practices law as a partner at Lowery and Fortner in all federal and state courts throughout the State of Mississippi.

Thomas fortner
Hattiesburg attorney Thomas Fortner is co-counsel for Ms. Simmons. (Picture from Linkedin)

Fortner has had some high-profile clients in his decades of practicing law. Most recently he represented Morris’ Bevily, who was charged along with his wife T’kia Bevily, in the Capital Murder of his 14-month-old daughter Jurayah Smith. Mr. Bevily’s indictment was dismissed after Mrs. Bevily was acquitted in May of this year on the charge.  Fortner currently represents Robert Lenoir, who is accused of the March, 2021 murder of Wendy Dansby. 

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