Name: Shirley Ann Arras Crook
Death: September 9, 1993, Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County, Missouri
Murderers: Christopher Simmons, 17, & Charles Benjamin, 15 (16-year-old John Tessmer was originally part of the plan but decided against it)
Simmons and Benjamin kidnapped Shirley, bound and gagged her, and took her to a state park where they threw her into a river, drowning her. The crime was an extensively planned thrill-killing committed for enjoyment and pleasure. Simmons was sentenced to death but the Supreme Court, after hearing his appeal, ruled that the juvenile death penalty was unconstitutional.
Read more about Shirley’s horrifying death and her killers here:
In Roper v. Simmons, SCOTUS ruled that juvenile death penalty was unconstitutional because juveniles under 18 are “categorically less culpable” due to the hallmark traits of youth–impulsivity, susceptibility to peer pressure, failure to appreciate risks and consequences, and immaturity. NOVJM takes no position on the juvenile death penalty. NOVJM also does not dispute that the traits cited by the Court are commonly found in juveniles. However, not all juveniles are the same and not all display these traits.
Simmons is just one of many juvenile murderers who displayed none of the “hallmarks of youth.” He was not less able to appreciate risks and consequences–he was well aware of the consequences and committed the killing because of those consequences and the pleasure they gave him. He was not impulsive- he extensively planned the murder. He was not under peer pressure-he led the murder team. The horrific kidnapping and murder of Shirley was not the result of immature and under-developed teenage brains. It was a heavily-planned, well-thought out, and sophisticated criminal act.
Written by an NOVJM volunteer.