By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
A Muleshoe man who has been acquitted of two murder charges went on trial Monday in connection with the third victim in a 2003 triple homicide.
A jury was selected and two prosecution witnesses were heard Monday in the trial of Larry Brent Kitchens, 52, who is accused of shooting and killing Vince Simnacher, according to 287th Judicial District Court Clerk Sherri Harrison.
Kitchens was indicted by a grand jury in November 2003 for killing his ex-wife Rhonda June Kitchens, 48, Derwin Wyn Beauchamp, 43, and Simnacher, 61, according to court and police records.
Jurors found Kitchens innocent of murder in August 2004 in the slaying of Beauchamp because they believed Kitchens did not knowingly and intentionally kill Beauchamp, according to a previous CNJ report.
Defense attorney Richard Wardroup told jurors Kitchens killed Simnacher “in the heat of passion but didn’t mean to kill his ex-wife or Beauchamp,” according to a previous CNJ story.
Wardroup took Kitchens’ case to an Amarillo Court of Appeals and argued Kitchens could not be tried for the deaths of both Rhonda June Kitchens and Simnacher because of double jeopardy following the acquittal in the Beauchamp trial. The court found that, although Kitchens could not be tried for the death of Rhonda June Kitchens, he could stand trial for Simnacher’s death, according to court records.
Simnacher’s daughter, Shirley Robinson, 41, said she’s worried Kitchens could be acquitted of murder in her father’s killing.
“I wish I could say yes that I’m confident, but with two acquittals, I’m scared,” Robinson said.
She said Simnacher and Rhonda June Kitchens were dating at the time they were killed at Simnacher’s home.
“My dad was a sweet guy. Rhonda divorced Larry and my dad saw Rhonda. Larry just couldn’t get over it,” Robinson said.
Robinson said her son was subpoenaed to be a witness for the prosecution in Kitchens’ trial this week because he was in Simnacher’s house when the shooting occurred.
Robinson said her son, then 15, did not see the three victims killed, but saw the bloody aftermath and attempted to give victims CPR, she said.
District Attorney Johnny Actkinson, who tried the Beauchamp case as well, declined comment.
Wardroup could not be reached Monday for comment.
Kitchens’ trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. (MDT) today.