The Ongoing Trial (and Tragicomic Tribulations) of Fallen Minuteman Leader Chris Simcox

In an Arizona Senate campaign in which immigration and border security have been center stage issues, it’s no surprise that Chris Simcox managed to insert himself back into local headlines. Since reinventing himself in 2002 as the charismatic founder of the vigilante border-watch group Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. (MCDC), Simcox has always found a way to command attention.

But the latest chapter in the Simcox saga has been more low-comedy soap opera than high-desert drama. It’s been years since Simcox was the subject of national media attention and a regular guest on Fox News and CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” He began his most recent attempt at a comeback with big ambitions, his goal nothing less than unseating sitting Republican senator John McCain. When his efforts went nowhere and he dropped out of the race, Simcox found himself back in the familiar position of issuing pleading E-mail messages to his remaining (and most gullible) supporters, begging them not to abandon him in his latest hour of financial and legal need.

As Hatewatch noted in early June, Simcox’s estranged wife, Alena Lyras Simcox, has accused him of threatening her and their children with loaded handguns on two occasions in late 2009. He also allegedly threatened to shoot police if his wife called them to their home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Although Simcox denies the allegations, in April a Phoenix judge ordered Simcox to move out of the Scottsdale house, surrender his guns and maintain a distance of 200 yards from his family. His next court hearing in the custody dispute is scheduled for August.

Now, in the July 9 edition of his increasingly self-pitying E-mail newsletter, “The Simcox Report,” Simcox accuses his wife of having been involved in an adulterous relationship with Stacey O’Connell, a former member of the MCDC with whom Simcox has been feuding for years, since November of 2009. (O’Connell has denied the allegation.) Simcox charges that ever since O’Connell was thrown out of the MDCD in 2007, the self-described (but unlicensed) “bounty hunter” has “been engaged in an obsessive, devious plan to ruin my personal life.” In mid-June, in fact, O’Connell’s Fugitive Recovery Services of Arizona issued a “Wanted” poster for Simcox, saying that O’Connell had been hired by Lyras to serve the protective ordered granted to Lyras by the court. In the E-mail, Simcox treats his supporters to a large selection of text messages he says O’Connell has sent him in recent weeks, including one taunting, “i chased your skinny little ass right out of the state, youre such a little man (sic).”

All of this seems to have pushed Simcox out of the border security game once and for all. His most recent E-mail includes news that the MCDC founder has decided to transition away from the crusade that has consumed his life for nearly a decade. His new interest, both professional and personal, is the other perennial issue of Southwestern politics: water. As described in his latest plea for prayers and funds, Simcox is training “in a technical field involving water purification systems that could hopefully one day soon bring clean affordable water to millions of families who struggle each day with finding clean drinking water to sustain life.”

Before a judge ordered him to stay clear of his wife and children, Simcox had a long history of family problems. As the Intelligence Report noted in 2005, Simcox’s first wife accused him of attempting to molest their teenage daughter. His second wife filed an emergency motion to obtain full custody of their teenage son because she thought Simcox had “suffered a mental breakdown and was dangerous.”

Some things, it seems, never change. Here’s hoping his new career as water savior calms his nerves.