Man accused of killing teen pleads not guilty

A man accused of killing a Ruch teen more than 13 years ago pleaded not guilty to a murder charge Monday afternoon in Jackson County Circuit Court.

William Frank Simmons, 30, long has been the primary suspect in the November 1996 murder of 15-year-old Kaelin Rose Glazier, said Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston.

Simmons' public defender, Andy Vandergaw, entered the not guilty plea to a single charge of murder before Judge Lorenzo Mejia at Monday's arraignment hearing. Judge Tim Barnack is scheduled to preside over the murder case.

Simmons was arrested in April and remains in jail without bail. A pretrial hearing before Barnack is set for July 12.

Vandergaw said he will file an "affidavit of prejudice" requesting Barnack be removed from presiding over Simmons' case.

A former senior deputy district attorney with Jackson County, Barnack was elected to the bench in 2009. His years as a prosecutor with the district attorney's office could make him biased against Simmons, Vandergaw said.

Investigators have focused on Simmons for more than a decade. They named him a person of interest in the case in January 1999, Huddleston said. Simmons has a criminal history dating to 1998, when he turned 18, with convictions for first- and second-degree theft, fraudulent use of a credit card, identity theft and delivery of methamphetamine, court records show. He has been in and out of jail numerous times on probation violations.

The murder charge carries a mandatory minimum 25-year prison sentence upon conviction.

Kaelin was last seen alive in the evening hours of Nov. 6, 1996, at a home on Johnson Road where Simmons lived with his grandparents.

They reportedly had watched a movie together when she stopped by the house on a walk from her nearby home to the Applegate Christian Fellowship in Ruch for a youth group meeting.

No sign of her was found until April 8, 2008. A man working on his property discovered Kaelin's remains in a field just across Haven Road from where Simmons lived in 1996.

Prosecutors brought investigators, forensic experts and a total of 36 witnesses before a grand jury in March and April. Nearly two full days of testimony included in-person statements, written reports and experts who appeared over video connections.

Simmons was officially charged with Kaelin's murder two years to the day after her remains were found, a discovery that reinvigorated the investigation. An interagency task force took on the case, combining the efforts of Jackson County Sheriff's Department, Medford police, the Oregon State Police Forensic Laboratory, the district attorney's office and the FBI. The team reviewed original reports, launched additional investigations and conducted new forensic examinations, Huddleston said.

Vandergaw said his co-counsel, Michael Bertholf, would be helpful in unraveling the reams of evidence, particularly that of a scientific nature. Bertholf used to be a molecular biology researcher, he said.

"We certainly are interested in what took them so long (to charge Simmons)," Vandergaw said.

Sanne Specht is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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