Cops: Man said he was out to kill TV hosts over Arias trial

2013-07-26T00:00:00Z Cops: Man said he was out to kill TV hosts over Arias trialThe Associated Press The Associated Press
July 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - A New York man indicted in Arizona on charges that he made Twitter death threats against two national TV commentators over their coverage of Jodi Arias, whom he claims to love, told detectives he was on his way to kill one of them, authorities said Thursday.

Maricopa County sheriff's officers transported David Lee Simpson, 48, of Bath, N.Y., to Phoenix, where he was booked into jail Wednesday evening.

An Arizona grand jury indicted him July 18 on three felony counts of computer tampering and two counts of stalking.

According to a probable cause statement from the Sheriff's Office, Simpson began his tweets June 11 claiming he was responsible for the killing of Arias' boyfriend.

The threats against Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell, both hosts of shows on Turner Broadcasting's HLN network, grew more serious June 12, the same day Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he planned to try again to secure the death penalty for Arias.

County authorities said Simpson told them late Wednesday that "he was on his way to Georgia to kill Nancy Grace."

He also indicated he had placed several pipe bombs in rural northern Pennsylvania, sheriff's spokesman Brandon Jones said.

Bath police investigator Heather Barry said Thursday that investigators think Simpson's story of planting bombs is credible.

She wouldn't elaborate because she didn't want to cause panic but said, "They are not in a location where we think anybody is in immediate danger." Barry is working with police in Pennsylvania to locate the devices, which Simpson said he made in Bath, then took over the state line about 30 miles to the south.

Jones said authorities are unaware of any connection between the death threats and the pipe bombs.

A jury convicted Arias of first-degree murder May 8 in the June 2008 death of boyfriend Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home. The same panel later failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether to sentence her to life in prison or death.

Prosecutors now have the option of pursuing a new penalty phase aiming for the ultimate punishment, or avoiding it and leaving Arias with a life sentence.

Grace and Velez-Mitchell both regularly covered the nearly five-month trial. They focused heavily on Arias' guilt, which apparently angered Simpson, according to court records.

Turner Broadcasting indicated both TV personalities wanted to pursue charges against the man, according to the probable cause filing. The network also increased its security and told authorities Grace and Velez-Mitchell were concerned for their safety, the filing states.

The court records indicate Simpson also used Twitter to threaten a Phoenix woman, who "stated she was scared to death."

Among the threatening tweets was one aimed at Velez-Mitchell stating, "I will be waiting for you and Nancy" when Arias' retrial begins.

In the same string of tweets, Simpson indicated he was in Arizona and threatened to "slit Nancy Grace's throat." Investigators found he was actually still in New York at the time of his tweets.

Maricopa County sheriff's investigators tracked the Twitter account to Simpson and flew to New York to interview him June 25, but Simpson had not yet been placed under arrest.

"He provided a full confession and stated he posted everything on Twitter because he was in love with Jodi Arias and he wanted a life with her," according to the probable cause statement.

As the investigation continued, detectives received an email from Turner Broadcasting on July 15 that said Grace and Velez-Mitchell were again receiving threats from a person they believed to be Simpson.

"Can't wait see you in Arizona I'm excited," he wrote in one, according to the records.

Neither Grace nor Velez-Mitchell apparently responded to Simpson on Twitter, and Turner Broadcasting officials declined to comment.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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