Quiet Suburban Neighborhood Shocked By Holiday Murder Suicide

Psychology studies show that anxiety and depression increase dramatically around the holidays, and yet people are less likely to seek help during this time. This next story is an example of the sad result of that combination, a murder-suicide right around Thanksgiving. It also makes you wonder if things could´ve been different if the troubled man had gotten help sooner when the warning signs were present, beyond the short term Baker Act he received.


Credit to author Joe Daraskevich All night there had been noise above the Smalls´ Kendall Lake apartment. Tavonna Smalls said her husband was about to knock on the ceiling at 1:15 a.m. Tuesday, November 26, 2013 when he sat back down. Then they heard four shots. There was a woman´s screams and stomping on the third floor above. Then two or three shots, then one or two more, and silence. An 11-year-old girl was frantically banging on doors for help soon after. Assistant Chief Chris Butler of the Jacksonville Sheriff´s Office said her mother, 45-year-old Nichelle R. Simpson, was shot and killed by her boyfriend before turning the gun on himself. Simpson was found with multiple gunshot wounds and 44-year-old Stephen M. Harford with one, Butler said.

Police were called to the residence in April 2012 because it was reported that Harford was intoxicated and making threats to kill himself and everyone else, including Simpson, Butler said. Although Harford had a concealed weapons permit, police took his firearms and sent him for mental health confinement under the Baker Act. Court documents show Simpson filed an injunction for protection against Harford after that incident.

Kareema Thomas lives on the bottom floor and said she saw Harford yelling and pointing at Simpson in the parking lot Monday about 10 p.m. Later she heard the gunshots.

Nobody was answering the young girl´s knocks on the doors until finally she made it downstairs to the Smalls, where the husband was watching the stairs. They took the girl in until police and family arrived from Alachua County.

Smalls said the child told her that she saw Harford put the gun to Simpson´s head twice Monday night because he didn´t like something her mother said. She also said the family was supposed to go to South Carolina for Thanksgiving.

They were originally supposed to leave Monday evening but they didn´t because the young girl wanted perfect attendance in school, Smalls said.