FARMINGTON — When Bradie Simpson stood before the audience Wednesday as one of the institute speakers at Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center’s third annual RESPECT Day, it was only the second time she had told her story publicly … and it wasn’t one for the faint of heart.
A little over three years ago Simpson made the national news in the worst way possible — by slitting the throat of her 9-month-old daughter after months of reportedly trying to get help for what she believed at the time to be demonic possession.
In September 2011, Simpson’s fiancé, Ed Duncan, was found dead in the woods from what was later determined to be a drug overdose. The following month, her pastor, Bob AuBuchon of the First Baptist Church of Camdenton, said she ran into the church screaming,“Take my baby, take my baby!” Basically tossing the baby into his arms, the pastor recalled her saying, “Tie me down! Tie me up! Possession! Possession!”
Later in the day, AuBuchon said, Simpson became quiet but wrote on a piece of paper, “Do not let me harm the baby.” The pastor prayed with her, but when she took the baby back and tried to leave the church 911 was called.
Simpson’s baby was removed by the Children’s Division that day, but was eventually returned to her.
It was on Feb. 4, 2012, that Simpson’s adult son called Camden County authorities reporting that he had found blood and a bloodied knife in his mother’s bedroom. After a three-and-a-half hour search by law enforcement, Simpson and her baby were found covered in blood in the woods near her home — the same woods where Duncan, the father of the baby, had been found dead almost five months before.
Deputies at first thought the baby was dead, but after noticing signs of life the infant was rushed to the hospital by ambulance where emergency surgery was performed that ultimately saved her. Simpson was also treated for a throat injury and later taken into custody.
Born in the Kansas City area, Simpson said she and her parents, whom she describes as “hippies from the ’60s,” moved from place to place until settling in Lake of the Ozarks when she was 11. She describes her family growing up as “loving but dysfunctional.”
“They used to fight a lot and that’s when I first started experiencing anxiety,” she said. “Kind of panic attacks, but I didn’t know what they were.”
Simpson said when she began her relationship with Duncan everything seemed to be going well.
“I’d been a hairdresser for 16 years and had a great life,” she said. “I had beautiful children and I had never experienced a per se ‘mental illness.’ I mean, life has a lot of stress and everyone gets anxiety, but when he died I experienced a trauma that I’d never experienced before.
“That led me to doing horrible self-harm and I hurt someone that I loved and who was very dear to me — my youngest child. It never felt like me. If you were to ask anybody, they’d tell you I loved my children so much. I am not an abusive person and I’m not a violent person, but I had a severe break with reality.”
Simpson still believes there were unknown others involved in Duncan’s death.
“With no sleep and I’d quit eating,” she said. “I guess that would be labeled as depression, but I was also having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I just couldn’t handle it and I couldn’t handle what I thought was a lack of investigation into Ed’s death by the police department because he had a bad past.”
Simpson said it was only after about two years that she learned the cause of Duncan’s death while confined in the Biggs Forensic Center in Fulton — the only maximum security psychiatric hospital in the state.
“My case manager called the Camden County Police Department and they said that he died of a methamphetamine overdose, secondary to cardiac arithmia,” Simpson said. “So, he wasn’t suffering from heart problems. It was caused by the drug. But they also told my case manager that they thought he was with other people when he died.
“There was no funeral, at least one that I was invited to by his family, so there was no closure. I loved him very much and our daughter was only four months old. So, that led me to first-degree assault against someone I loved dearly. She was asleep. I don’t remember causing myself great pain or even doing the crime. I never felt it was me.”
Simpson sat in the Camden County Jail for two years believing she was probably going to be institutionalized for the rest of her life.
“I had never experienced hallucinations,” she said. “I just felt that something dark was chasing me. That’s what led me here and I’m on my to recovery. I stabilized in county jail, so they never really had me on medication except when I was taken to St. Mary’s and then I was dropped from Medicaid.”
Simpson says she still loves and thinks about her daughter all the time — and that is in many ways a greater punishment than her commitment to a mental hospital.
“She’s four now,” she said. “She suffered injuries like mine, but they weren’t as deep. She was in the hospital — I read in the newspaper — for five days. I knew there was no intention in what I did, and the judge saw there was no intention. He saw that I raised my stepson and my own son — who are now 23 and 22 — and my two teenagers who are doing awesome in school. They are now in 9th and 10th grade.
“They all come and see me, but I’m not allowed to have contact with my youngest. She is with family, though, and she’s doing wonderful. I don’t think she remembers it and I hope she doesn’t. I miss her dearly. I miss them all so much. I wake up every morning having to face the terrible thing I did to her.”
Simpson said that while she has the support of her family there is none to be had from those living in the community where the crime occurred.
“They didn’t understand mental illness,” she said. “And the preacher — I don’t blame him because of my panicked state and how my demeanor was. Everybody thought I was on drugs. They proved I wasn’t on drugs. [Duncan] died Sept. 3 and the first-degree assault against my daughter was on Feb. 3. That’s why it happened when it did.”
Simpson has only been at Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center for nine months and she is reportedly progressing well in her treatment program.
“I don’t have any specific date when I’m to be released,” she said. “They treat us very well here. They’re here to help in any way they can. I’m learning life coping skills here to help us regulate our emotions in difficult situations.
“The mind can play tricks on you if you’re not in good health, eating or sleeping. I still don’t take any medication to this day and I’m working their program, going to all of the classes 100 percent. I’m very involved in my treatment because I don’t want this to ever happen to me again.”
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org