Thannya Karolinna Rios

Thannya Karolinna Rios

Four Life Terms Provide Finality in Rios Case

Killer breaks silence with tearful apology

Rebecca S. Green | The Journal Gazette
October 7, 2007

Simon Rios wept openly as he confessed a “deep sorrow in his heart” for murdering his wife and three young daughters in December 2005.

Before Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull sentenced Rios to four consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Rios told his wife's family, who had come from Mexico for the hearing, he found the love of God in jail.

“I'm sorry,” he said through an interpreter. “I am very sorry. The only thing that keeps me upright is the hope to be with the ones I love the most in my life.”

Standing next to his attorney, Rios' shoulders occasionally shuddered with sobs. His statements, to the grief-stricken family of his murdered wife, his dead daughters' grandparents, an immigrant community and a city, came after nearly two years of waiting - and the courtroom seemed charged with a tense sorrow.

Family members who traveled from Mexico, police officers who handled the case, victims' advocates who helped others cope with grief all filled the rows of seating. They listened to Rios speak, his words translated into English by three interpreters - one sitting next to him and two sitting amid the family and friends.

But the 35-year-old Mexican national's impassioned apology, which moved many in the courtroom to tears, did nothing to change the mind-set of Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards, who looked toward the weeping Rios and consigned his soul to hell.

“You will not be seeing your daughters in heaven again,” Richards said. “You will be joining the devil in hell the day you die.”

Richards recounted for the court the scene she found in the early morning hours of Dec. 13, 2005, after being called by police to Rios' South Calhoun Street home. She described the permanent memories of seeing Ana Casas-Rios, 28, and their three daughters, Liliana, 10; Katherinne, 4; and Thannya, 20 months, dead inside their home.

Having served in the prosecutor's office for nearly 27 years, Richards said she had hoped she had seen everything.

“But I had not,” she said, her own voice quaking with emotion. “I will never forget that until the day I die. … We reserve the death penalty for the most horrible crimes and the most horrible people. This is that crime and that is that man.”

Rios pleaded guilty Aug. 31 to four counts of murder and two counts of moving a body from a violent or suspicious death. He has already been sentenced in Delaware County to a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 100 years, for the rape, child molesting and murder of 10-year-old Alejandra Gutierrez.

Alejandra was a classmate of Rios' daughter, and on the morning of Dec. 8, 2005, Rios abducted Alejandra from her south-side bus stopand drove her to rural Delaware County where he sexually assaulted and killed her.

He confessed to her murder and drew a map to her body - frozen in the snow at a gravel pit - after police arrested him in connection with the deaths of his family members just five days after he took the girl.

Up until the Aug. 31 hearing, Richards sought the death penalty against Rios, dropping it in exchange for his guilty pleas.

That decision, Richards said, came only because Ana Casas-Rios' deeply religious family did not want Rios executed.

And she wanted Rios to understand, without a doubt, that had it been up to her, his sentence would be different.

“You, more than anyone I have ever met, deserved to die,” Richards said.

Richards found it ironic that Rios' life was spared by the very people from whom he took so much. And she openly wrestled with the idea that he would receive treatment while in prison for his depression - a sadness she said was brought on by his own actions - while the family would likely receive little, if any support, when they return to Mexico.

She then turned to the translators interpreting the hearing for the Casas family and asked them to stop translating before she described in great intensity and detail, the last few minutes of his children's lives. Addressing Rios, she peppered him with questions about what his children might have seen or felt as he strangled each one.

“You were their father,” she said.

Richards' wish for Rios was for him to close his eyes, see what he did and be haunted by it.

Her statements stood in contrast to those offered by Rios' court-appointed attorney, Michelle Kraus.

Also struggling to contain her emotion, Kraus spoke of Rios' childhood poverty in rural Mexico, his deep sense of remorse and his new-found faith - bringing the Rev. Paul Bueter to testify for Rios. Bueter, the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church in Warsaw, has counseled Rios in jail.

“Simon's life is worth saving,” Kraus said. “He did a horrible and inexplicable thing. When a parent takes the life of a child, we have to know something went wrong.”

Having traveled from Mexico to be present at the hearing, Ana Casas-Rios' brother, Marcos, said nothing could justify Rios' actions, which not only killed his family, but also damaged many lives around him and in the community at large.

As he walked back to his seat, he broke down and wept.

Also speaking on behalf of the victims was Adolfo Puebla, a family friend and godfather of Thannya. Speaking at times directly to Rios in Spanish, Puebla said he loved Rios' daughter as his own but never saw the person Rios truly was.

Before Gull passed sentence, Rios offered one last statement through an interpreter, one last tearful apology, this one to the community that he said welcomed him with open arms.

“I saw an opportunity (in Fort Wayne) and a way to fulfill my dream,” he said. “But I allowed the forces of evil to take over. I will always regret it.”

Kraus held his hand as Gull sentenced him to a lifetime in prison for the murders and to six years in prison for moving the bodies from the scene.

After the hearing, Kraus said she wanted to offer Rios support, particularly because his own family, who had tried unsuccessfully to make it from Mexico for the hearing, was not present.

Rios had always wanted to take responsibility for his actions, from the moment of his arrest, and had even wanted to plead guilty, even when the death penalty was still on the table, Kraus said.

Monday's hearing allowed him to take that responsibility, she said.

“I believe in forgiveness,” she said. “I believe in God's forgiveness. He wants to live in a way that asks for forgiveness. If he continues to seek forgiveness and repentance, I believe God will forgive.”

Later Monday, at a news conference in her office alongside Chief Criminal Prosecutor Steven Godfrey, Richards said the plea agreement offered the Casas family something the death penalty could not - finality.

As part of his plea agreement, Rios waived all rights to appeal his sentence.

“With this, at least, it's over,” she said.


Mass Murderer Simon Rios Dies In An Indiana Prison

The News-Sentinel
By Jeff Neumeyer

FORT WAYNE, Indiana - Mass murderer Simon Rios dies in an Indiana prison, marking the end of a story that brought terrible pain and suffering to the Fort Wayne community.

Rios was found hanging after 12-30 a.m. Thursday in his cell at the Pendleton Reformatory.  There were indications the torment he caused others, became a burden too great to bear.  Attempts to revive Simon Rios failed, and he was pronounced dead before 1-30 a.m. at the Pendleton Correctional Facility.

Prison officials say there were no signs of foul play, and in fact, he left behind a suicide note.  His lawyer says he'd been beaten up before in general population.  Michelle Kraus/Rios' Lawyer: " He got sent back to segregation, segregation was very lonely for him, and the note would indicate that he was very lonely.  His demons just got the best of him."

Karen Richards/(R) Allen County Prosecutor:  " I think it's very mistaken at this point in time to, in any way, view Mr. Rios as the victim here."  Rios abducted, raped and murdered 10-year old Alejandra Gutierrez in December 2005.  Five days later, he killed his wife, and three young daughters in their Fort Wayne home.  Neumeyer: " Rios himself summoned police to the scene, he was waiting on the front porch when police got there. The crimes had a tremendous impact on the Hispanic community."

See posts on dear mother Ana L. Casas and sisters Liliana K. Rios Casas and Katherinne G. Rios.


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