Convicted murderer Gerard Dante Simmons, 33, of Cleveland, was sentenced to 50 years in prison on Thursday by 75th State District Court Judge Mark Morefield for the August 2016 murder of his girlfriend Latasha Green.
In his guilty plea, Simmons admitted to brutally murdering Green, a 36-year-old mother of five, at their home in Cleveland. After strangling her to death, Simmons sexually violated her corpse and then dumped her body.
Green’s daughter, now 13, who was 8 years old at the time of the murder, described her mom’s relationship with Simmons as “toxic.”
She testified that on the night of the murder she heard Simmons and Green arguing and remembers waking up to the sound of someone choking. She walked into her mom’s bedroom and saw her mother completely covered by the bed linens with Simmons next to her with a pillow grasped in both hands.
According to the daughter’s testimony, Simmons stared at her for a moment. She then went back to her room and fell asleep. She recalled next hearing the screen door of the home opening and then a car pulling away. Assuming her mom and Simmons were leaving, she once again went back to sleep.
The next morning, Green and her car were gone. When Green failed to return home later, her family members reported her as missing.
“That was the last place I seen her,” said her daughter.
Immediately, Simmons was a suspect in Green’s disappearance. Police were tipped off that he had admitted to killing Green and dumping her body.
During his testimony, Capt. Scott Felts with Cleveland Police Department described the desperate search to find Green in the hopes that she was still alive. Those hopes were dashed when Green’s partially nude body was discovered in a wooded area along Wells Cemetery Road off of FM 1010.
“To this day, I still think about it,” Felts said.
During questioning of Felts, it was revealed that Simmons was a member of the 59 Bounty Hunters Bloods, Houston’s largest subset of the notorious criminal gang, the Bloods.
Felts testified that Simmons was known by police as a violent drug dealer who had been involved in a number of domestic assaults on other women and had been arrested for drugs. When asked if Simmons was known for his peaceful disposition, Felts said just the opposite was true.
“He has a reputation for violent behavior. I believe he is a troubled person. He committed a lot of assaults. I believe he is a danger to the community,” Felts said.
Simmons’ attorney Dan Bradley asked Felts to confirm if Green had been a suspect in several cases, including some that involved domestic violence.
Liberty County Assistant District Attorney Mark Boemio, who prosecuted the case alongside ADA Nicole Washington, followed up by asking Felts, “Are any of these crimes punishable by the death penalty?”
Felts replied, “No.”
At the sentencing hearing, 30 of Green’s family members and friends listened to the testimony. Simmons had no family members present throughout the hearing, except for his sister, Olympia, who was arrested early Thursday morning on her way into the courtroom on charges of Possession of a Controlled Substance and Prohibited Substance in a Correctional Facility.
Wearing a jailhouse jumpsuit Thursday afternoon after being transported from the jail to the courthouse, she testified that her brother was a very loving person who brightened a room when he walked in. She claimed that Simmons always ended up with Green despite their problems.
“Is it Latasha Green’s fault that she ended up strangled?” Boemio asked her.
“No,” she replied.
An expert for the defense, Dr. Mohammed Khalid Hamza, a professor of clinical mental health counseling at Lamar University in Beaumont, testified that he evaluated Simmons’ mental health in 2018 and found he suffers from a number of psychological disorders, including Attention Deficit Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder and Impulse Control Disorder, exhibits high risk sexual behavior and has a substance dependence.
Additionally, Simmons is diagnosed with a Borderline Personality Disorder, Mood Disorder and Induced Psychotic Disorder, Hamza said.
“Are those things brought on by the individual?” Bradley asked.
Hamza responded that it was like the “chicken and the egg” as no one can be sure if the mental disorders came first or if they were the result of a traumatic brain injury Simmons suffered in 2011 or from his history of drug abuse.
Hamza spoke about Simmons’ childhood traumas, from being abandoned by his biological father and allegedly abused by his stepfather, who also is in jail awaiting trial for a separate murder.
“This was one of the worst family climates in which to raise a child,” he said.
As the hearing began to wrap up, Bradley had intended to call on Simmons’ mother, who reportedly is in New York. He explained that she wanted to testify by Zoom but he had been unable to reach her despite calling and leaving messages over the course of two days.
When he heard from her on Thursday during a break in the trial, Bradley said she told him she had been waiting for the link to the Zoom session. Communication reportedly once again broke down when Bradley’s investigator, LinMarie Garsee, tried to assist in getting the mom connected to the trial.
“She hung up on Ms. Garsee and is not answering the phone now,” Bradley said.
During closing statements, Boemio asked Judge Morefield to sentence Simmons to the maximum of 50 years in prison.
“This is a person who is dangerous to this community. We ask that this court sentence him to the max,” Boemio said.
In his closing statement, Bradley suggested that the mental health assistance that Simmons had received fell short of actually treating his conditions.
“The signs were there that he needed better care or treatment,” Bradley said. “It’s not that easy when you are poor and have deficits.”
Bradley said that one indication that Simmons had troubling mental problems was that he had visions in his head as a child.
“He had visions as a child that were dismissed as the work of the devil,” he said. “He had severe head injuries that were untreated. These were things not of his making and then he fell in with a woman who gave him drugs … These are the factors that played into Gerard’s life.”
In rebuttal, Boemio said that Simmons’ mental health issues had not prevented him from getting the drugs he wanted.
“He had no problem terrorizing the people on the streets of Cleveland. This defendant could have gotten the help he needed if not for his stubbornness and unwillingness. That is not Tasha’s fault. He didn’t have to take those drugs,” he said. “We are not going to blame the victim.”
When Morefield announced his decision to sentence Simmons to 50 years in prison, some of Green’s family and friends briefly clapped their hands while others cried silently. Morefield admonished those who clapped and said that the sentencing would be a “dignified proceeding.”
Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer Bergman, who observed the hearing, was satisfied with the 50-year sentence, saying, “The sentence obtained in this case reinforces the commitment of the Liberty County District Attorney’s Office to seek justice on behalf of victims. It also sends the repeated message to those in our county who commit acts of violence such as those committed by Gerard Simmons, that there will be dire consequences for those who perpetuate them. Please keep the family of Tasha Green in your prayers as they are finally able to move forward after six years of waiting for justice.”