Closing arguments will begin Friday in the trial of a woman charged with mutilating a body at a Tulsa funeral home.
The jury in Shaynna Lauren Sims’ trial spent more than an hour listening to a series of jailhouse calls Sims made to her now-estranged husband, Monty Smith, and her mother. In those calls, Sims, now 28, can be heard repeatedly denying claims that she damaged the body of Tabatha Lynch during a viewing on April 30, 2015, at Moore Funeral Homes’ Eastlawn Chapel.
But Sims’ mother, Vicki Murray, told Sims over the phone that her attorney at the time recommended that Sims undergo in-patient treatment if she’s able to post bond because “people think you’re crazy because you went over there and messed with a dead person.”
However, Sims objected to the suggestion based on discussions with the same attorney that made her think it would harm her case, not help it. She became visibly emotional in the courtroom while listening to her conversations with Murray, who wasn’t allowed to watch the trial because she was a possible defense witness.
Sims told Smith in the calls that although police found locks of Lynch’s hair during a pat-down search, “they don’t have no cameras. They don’t have no witnesses. They don’t have no proof.” She added later that “just because I had hair on me and I had a knife” didn’t automatically mean she violated Lynch’s body.
Sims is charged with multiple felony and misdemeanor counts, including knowingly concealing stolen property, first-degree burglary, unauthorized dissection, disrupting or interrupting a funeral and unlawfully removing a body part from someone who is deceased. Testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday indicated that both of Lynch’s breasts and one of her toes had been, as Assistant District Attorney Tanya Wilson put it, “crudely removed” during a viewing before Lynch’s scheduled funeral and cremation.
“I didn’t even know she’d be capable of doing that,” Smith testified Thursday.
Wilson said in her opening statement that a search by police of Smith’s phone, which he shared with Sims, revealed that Sims took graphic photos of what she had done to Lynch’s body. She and Assistant District Attorney Reagan Reininger have argued that Sims’ actions were apparent retribution for an affair she believed Lynch was having with Sims’ husband.
Smith has insisted that the two were only friends. He testified that he has filed for divorce from Sims but that it’s not yet finalized.
The burglary charge against Sims is based on allegations that she gave Lynch’s boyfriend and children a false name and wrongly said she worked for the funeral home when she went to Lynch’s apartment, reportedly to steal jewelry after taking her shoes from the funeral home. But Sims’ attorney, Donn Baker, argued this week that Sims simply wanted to fix Lynch’s hair and makeup and denied that she intended to burglarize Lynch’s residence.
Smith, the state’s final witness to take the stand, described how Sims’ arrest and subsequent jail time put a strain on a relationship already damaged by unhealthy conflicts. Sims did not testify, and the defense did not call any other witnesses.
In the jail calls, Smith asked Sims why she went to Lynch’s viewing a second time after previously going with her mother. However, he also told her that despite what she’s heard, he had never cheated on her with anyone, including Lynch.
“I wish you would have just stayed away from them,” Smith told Sims, referencing Lynch’s family.
Sims ultimately asked Smith to get her released from custody so she could pay municipal tickets and attend a Waka Flocka Flame concert downtown. She also expressed frustration at Lynch’s family.
“They tried to say I cut her face and her hair. No. Her hair was falling out,” Sims said. “It was all in my hands.”
Sims has been in the Tulsa Jail without bond since July 2015 after reports that she violated conditions of previous jail release by visiting Lynch’s apartment complex.