BY DIXIE CASSELBURY
When accused murder John Simon, 61, of Noxen, took the stand Feb. 28 for a pre-trial hearing, his message conveyed to President Judge Brendan Vanston was fairly clear – Simon was a victim of manipulation at the hands of his then girlfriend, Cheryl Lawson.
Lawson, 43, plead guilty on Feb. 13 to a third degree murder charge for her part in the death of Devon “Slick” King, of Brooklyn, N.Y. King’s remains were found in a shallow grave on Sorber Mountain, Noxen Township, on Dec. 24, 2004.
The liaison between Lawson and Simon emerged when a woman Simon referred to as Beth arranged a series of “paid dates” with Lawson’s daughters, Lola and Amber. The dates with Simon and the daughters never transpired, but shortly after that first encounter between Lawson and Simon, she moved in with Simon and called Noxen her home.
Simon’s voice trembled as attorney Dan Barrett walked Simon through a series of hardships that he said led him to this point in his life. Simon stated that after experiencing two deaths in six months, his father in 1995 and his wife of acute leukemia in 1996, he began to abuse alcohol, drugs, and use street girls for sexual favors.
Simon said that his habits got so bad that he signed into a rehab for a while and pursued a clean life.
“She (Lawson) was great for the first couple of years. I told her that I would take care of her and she wouldn’t have to work another day of her life and she didn’t,” Simon said.
Things started to fall apart, said Simon, when Lawson began to use drugs. Simon said that it wasn’t unusual to pay $1,500 a month for Lawson’s drug habits.
Simon said that at times the drugs had made Lawson seem crazy. He said that several times she “shot things up” with a gun at his home and because of that he had asked her to leave the premises, but she refused. Simon said he went to work everyday and refrained, for the most part, from doing the drugs.
It was James Weber, said Simon, who had dropped King off at Simon’s home in December 2003, two days previous to King’s death. Amber, who had also moved into Simon’s home along with her two young children, had arranged for King’s visit. Simon said he hadn’t known King up to that point.
For the two days following, Simon alleges that Lawson, her daughters and several other drug users “sat around getting high.”
“The first night I gave him (King) $50 in cash and by morning I had to get a check cashed to pay him $150 more. I thought he was going home that day but he stayed and people kept coming to my house to buy it,” Simon stated.
The third day was a weekend and for that reason Simon said he decided to join in. Simon claimed that it was Weber that first spoke of robbing King. In fact, he said Lawson had warned King about the threat and had given King a gun for his protection.
Later that day, Simon said he was sitting on the end of his bed and had just finished getting high when Lawson approached him with a gun.
“And you just walked down the stairs with a gun without any question?” Barrett asked.
Simon said on his way down he slipped on the stairs and upon regaining his balance he heard Lawson’s daughters yelling “he’s gonna shoot you.” A struggle occurred and he felt the gun slide out of his hands. At that point, Lawson was standing over King holding the gun.
Simon also admitted that after King was shot in the buttocks, he walked King to the bathroom and then to the basement where he laid him on a weight bench.
Throughout the day, Simon admits to going downstairs three separate times and hitting King three different times with a crow-bar type device.
“She (Lawson) wouldn’t leave me alone about it. She kept telling me to shut him up,” Simon stated.
The first time Simon landed a blow to King’s neck. The second hit was to his right temple area. When Simon came back upstairs the second time, he said Weber was back at the house. Weber suggested duct-taping King’s mouth.
Simon said that King was only muffling noises then but because he was feeling threatened by Lawson; he hit King again, this time in the middle of the skull area.
Simon smoked coke again and after an undefined time said he didn’t hear King making anymore noise. Lawson then went down to the basement and when she returned, she told Simon, “He’s dead.”
Simon said that Leo Smith and Weber wrapped King’s body with plastic and placed it in Weber’s car. Lawson and Simon were left to clean up the bloody mess, which they did.
“There was about four inches of water already in the basement from recent rain. The water was pink. I pumped that water out and rinsed the floor down again and then pumped it again,” he said.
Cheryl, he said, cleaned up the upstairs. The two then sat and smoked King’s cocaine till daylight.
During cross examination Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick asked Simon directly.
Skumanick: “Why did you stay with her if she manipulated you, did drugs, took your money, and asked you to kill a man? “Do you know that Mr. King died from a depressed skull fracture – do you know what that means?” asked Skumanick.
Simon answered, “I didn’t kill him and I stayed – because I loved her.”
On Monday, Skumanick said that Judge Vanston has denied all of the motions made on the Simon’s behalf. No date has been set yet for future proceedings.