by Robert A. Waters
Two years ago, I wrote about the murder of Judi Simpson-Beaver. American justice works slowly and fitfully, if at all, but finally there’s been some resolution in this case.
At trial, a shaken jury was forced to view the killing of forty-eight-year-old store clerk Judi Simpson-Beaver. Recorded by surveillance cameras, Lake Superior Court Judge Clarence Murray remarked that he found the video “profoundly difficult for everyone to watch.”
On March 4, 2012, Jeremy Blue, 20, and two accomplices, Donvell Edwards, 23, and Edward Lee Perry, 28, conspired to rob the Lucky Mart convenience store at 5695 Cleveland Street in Merrillville, Indiana. The video showed Blue entering the store wearing a “Jason-style” hockey mask.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Blue “pointed a black handgun at Simpson-Beaver, who was behind the counter, and she began removing money from the cash register. The man removed both cash drawers and moved toward the exit. He suddenly changed his direction, went to the counter and fired a single shot hitting Simpson-Beaver in her upper body. He put the register drawers down, and went behind the counter where he pursued the cashier and fired another round at Simpson-Beaver’s head, causing her to collapse. The man picked up the cash drawers and fled on foot.”
As Blue ran outside, coins began spilling from the register drawers. That alerted a bystander, who looked up just as the killer removed his mask. The onlooker later picked Blue out of a lineup, as did several other witnesses.
Despite his lawyer’s protestations that he was mentally ill, the jury convicted Jeremy Blue and he received 80 years in prison. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Judge Murray “took the unusual step of not awarding credit for the 729 days Blue spent in the Lake County Jail because of numerous write-ups for fighting, disrespecting correctional officers, and throwing urine and feces on other inmates.”
Donvell Edwards got 12 years for his part in planning and carrying out the crime.
Edward Lee Perry, who provided the mask and gun used in the robbery, received immunity for his testimony. (At the time of Blue's trial, Perry was serving time in prison for an unrelated robbery.) Perry testified that before the murder, the friends had snorted cocaine and planned the heist. He stated that Blue later told him he had to kill the clerk because she recognized him. Before he shot her in the face, Simpson-Beaver allegedly asked: “Jeremy, why are you doing this?”
The conspirators and Judi Simpson-Beaver lived in different worlds. Despite their young ages, Blue, Edwards, and Perry were hardened career criminals, just the opposite of their victim.
Zachary Beaver spoke about the kindness of his mother. She taught her sons to be honest and forthright, he said. He joined the Army and was serving in Afghanistan when his mother was murdered. Her second son, an Army veteran, had served in Iraq. In the 1990s, Simpson-Beaver moved to Lubbock, Texas where she obtained her bachelor's degree in paralegal studies from Texas Tech. She later moved back to her native Indiana to be with family.
Unlike her killer, Simpson-Beaver worked for a living. In Texas, she was employed as a paralegal, and started a music production company. After moving back to Indiana, she did title research as well as working a second job in the convenience store.
At the time of her death, Simpson-Beaver had been helping Zachary raise his son while he served overseas.
Before being sentenced, Jeremy Blue’s mother asked for leniency. “He is afraid of going to jail,” she said. “He’s afraid for his life, of getting killed in prison. He’s just a boy.”