BROOKSVILLE — In Kevin Simmons' increasingly psychotic mind, a clinical psychologist told the court, his 81-year-old mother was a witch who put his household under a spell.
She put a spell on his eyes, so things would appear unusually large and bright. She placed his entire Spring Hill home under a spell.
So when authorities found him sitting on the back patio, his mother's bloodied and battered body partially submerged in the family pool on the night of Aug. 3, 2008, Kevin Simmons had little clue that she was dead.
"His first statement to the officers was, 'She wasn't dead. She was a witch,' " Gainesville-based psychologist Elizabeth McMahon said Tuesday.
But it mattered little to Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing, who sentenced Simmons to 25 years in prison — the maximum penalty allowed under a deal arranged between prosecutors and the public defender.
Simmons' hands shook constantly and he spoke very little during the hourlong hearing, mostly to answer the judge's questions. He showed no visible response when Rushing handed down the sentence.
Simmons, 59, pleaded guilty June 18 to a charge of second-degree murder. He was accused of fatally beating his mother with a remote control and holding her underwater in the family pool.
In a wheelchair and beset with a number of ailments, including full-blown AIDS, Simmons initially faced a charge of first-degree murder and life in prison.
Because of those ailments and a number of other issues, Simmons' attorney Tricia Jenkins and Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino were able to agree on a lesser charge and sentence.
But during Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Jenkins brought McMahon to the witness stand in an effort to explain how Simmons had slowly declined into a "psychotic state" over the years — particularly in the days leading up to the brutal death of Dorothy Simmons.
McMahon testified that AIDS and a host of other medical issues, including heart problems, partial paralysis and hepatitis B and C, may have led to Simmons' diminished mental state.
For several months, McMahon said, Kevin Simmons had clashed with his mother over the funeral arrangements for his father, who had recently died. Simmons had misinterpreted a joke his father once made about having his remains placed in a mayonnaise jar and then taken away on a garbage truck.
McMahon said Simmons became "obsessed" with recovering his father's remains. "He was just doing things that didn't make sense to anyone," she said.
In his presentation, Magrino said he had already shown leniency in reducing the charge. He also noted that at least a couple of Simmons' relatives, including his sister, had written letters to the judge requesting that he receive the maximum sentence.
"Cries for leniency should fall on deaf ears the same way that Dorothy's cries for help also fell on deaf ears," read a letter from Simmons' sister, Nadia Oliver. "Our family firmly believes that anything less (than) life in prison without possibility of parole would be a travesty of justice."