Suicide letter professes love for lawyer

Published April 3, 2002|Updated Sept. 3, 2005

(ran PC edition of Pasco Times)

Laren Sims Jordan sat alone, tearing a pillowcase into thin strips, braiding them into a narrow, 5-foot rope in a quiet, second-story room just feet away from the nurse's station at the Hernando County Jail.

Before she attached the makeshift rope to a ceiling vent and slipped it around her neck, Jordan wrote a seven-page letter to her Brooksville attorney, Tom Hogan Jr., sealed it in an envelope, ripped it into four pieces and put it in a garbage can.

In that letter, released by authorities on Tuesday, Jordan instructed Hogan to file a claim against the jail for her suicide, telling him that jail officials were negligent by not checking on her every 15 minutes and closing the blinds on her cell window.

She told him of lawsuits she and her late husband had filed against Nevada prisons.

She said it would be her last gift.

"This is all I can give my children, Tom." Jordan wrote. "You can structure it so no one can benefit from it except them . . . just protect them."

Authorities believe it was the last act of meticulous planning by Jordan, whom jail officials found dangling from a ceiling Saturday. They cut the rope, pumped her chest and breathed into her mouth as her pulse returned, left, returned. She died Easter morning at a Brooksville hospital. Her family plans a private funeral.

Corrections Corporation of America, which owns the jail, is investigating Jordan's death. Preliminary findings show that officials checked Jordan every 15 minutes, as required, said spokesman Steven Owen. Their investigation is not yet complete, Owen said, and he would not comment on Jordan's letter, saying he had not read it.

Jordan, a 36-year-old who attended Hernando High School, was awaiting extradition to California, where she was accused of poisoning her lawyer husband, Larry McNabney, with horse tranquilizer before burying him in a vineyard.

After that, she drove a rented red Jaguar to Florida, where she grew up. Her parents, Jesse and Jackie Sims, are well known around Brooksville, where Mr. Sims serves as president of Sims Machine and Controls, has been the president of the Manufacturers Association of Hernando County and has been a longtime advocate of better technical training in local schools.

In her letter, Jordan begged Hogan to help her two teenagers, 17-year-old Haylei, who is currently living with her grandparents, and 16-year-old Cole, who is living with his father in Florida and does not know his mother well.

"Let them know that I did this so they could go on," Jordan wrote. "Not to hurt them or make them feel empty. I want them to be healthy and happy. I don't want them to have a mother who is a convict. They will be free to make their own way in the world."

And Jordan, whom authorities described as an attractive brunette who easily convinced men to help her, told Hogan she had a crush on him.

She said she found him handsome and charming and said he had long made her heart skip a beat. She also asked him to consider taking custody of Haylei.

"I am certain my parents would understand," Jordan wrote. "You could protect her."

Hogan has been Mr. Sims' attorney for more than a decade and was asked by Mr. Sims to represent his daughter when she got into trouble in Brooksville in 1989 for burglary and larceny charges.

Jordan told Hogan in the letter that she thought he was physically beautiful and "even more stunning on the inside."

She said she remembered seeing him walk around the Hernando County Courthouse _ tall and handsome with his dark hair, wearing a suit.

"I told my mom and anyone . . . that you were the man for me," wrote Jordan.

Jordan told Hogan she never felt like she belonged in her family. She was the second oldest of four children, and had not kept in close touch with them over the past 10 years.

"My dad will understand that I am a coward, but he will realize it is the best thing I can do for him and my mom. . . . I never fit the mold, Tom. The fact that they even acknowledge me is amazing. I am not good like they are. I do not have that in me. I don't know why and I don't know if I ever did. I just know I have always been a disappointment to them. I hope by bringing Haylei home, I tried to make them proud."

Jordan said bringing her daughter home was her last chance to do something right.

She said her husband, Larry McNabney, had beaten her and she feared for her daughter's safety. She said she was sorry for killing him.

"I think we both know that it doesn't matter what kind of man Larry was, we murdered him," Jordan wrote. "Of course I should spend the rest of my life in prison. . . . I wish I could change what happened, but I can't."

Authorities also have charged 21-year-old Sarah Dutra, a California art student and former secretary in McNabney's office, with his death, saying she helped Jordan murder McNabney.

Hogan said Tuesday that he had not yet read Jordan's letter. He said he had not talked with Jordan about suing the jail, but that he would look into it.

"If any client requested some specific complaint, I would certainly consider it," he said. "It doesn't mean it's viable. I'm not threatening the jail at this point."

Hogan, who is divorced, said he was surprised by Jordan's personal comments, saying they had never dated or had a close personal relationship.

"I suppose it's flattering," Hogan said. "It's news to me."

He said Jordan had not asked him to take custody of Haylei. He said that was not an option as she is a grown woman and in the custody of her grandparents.

In the end, Jordan appeared to be most concerned about her daughter.

"She is the most incredible individual," Jordan wrote. "Her heart is huge. She is forgiving and trusting to a fault. . . . Tom, she won't have me anymore."

She said she had tried to dig deep inside herself. She said it wasn't working.

She tried to be strong. She felt empty.

"There is nothing left," she wrote. She signed her letter in cursive script: "Love _ Laren."

Then she wrote: "Please tell my parents I love them."

_ Jamie Jones covers law enforcement and courts in Hernando County and can be reached at 754-6114. Send e-mail to