Chris Simcox, the former leader of one of the largest militia groups patrolling the Arizona border during the peak of the nativist Minuteman movement, has been charged with molesting three young girls.
Simcox, 52, was arrested yesterday after detectives found probable cause that he had molested the girls, all under the age of 10, police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson told Reuters. The charges stem from incidents over the last few months. Simcox has denied all charges, according to a press release from the Phoenix Police Department.
He faces two counts each of child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor, and one count of attempted child molestation.
Simcox is the co-founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. During the heyday of the nativist movement, the former kindergarten teacher was among the movement’s most charismatic figures, affecting the likeness of a renegade vigilante patrolling a lawless border, often with a pistol tucked into the front of his jeans.
Last year, this reporter met with Simcox for a story investigating the possible involvement of extremist groups in the killings of Mexican immigrants crossing the Arizona border. Simcox claimed to know nothing of the killings, to have left the movement and to be living a quiet life tutoring schoolchildren in suburban Phoenix.
Simcox, who does not yet have an attorney, is being held in the Maricopa County Jail. No bail has been set.
This is not the first time Simcox has been accused of violence or molestation by a spouse. In 2010, his third wife, Alena Maria Lyras-Simcox, obtained a restraining order against him after telling a court he threatened her with a gun and said he was going to kill her and their children. Earlier, Kim Dunbar, Simcox’s second wife, sought to obtain custody of their teenage son in 2001 because she feared her husband had become dangerous. In sworn affidavits, she alleged that Simcox was prone to violent rages throughout their 10-year marriage. His first wife, Deborah Crews, told the Report that Simcox had allegedly gotten drunk and tried to molest their 14-year-old daughter, but no complaint to police was ever made.
At the time, Simcox refused to comment, telling the Intelligence Report, “My personal life has nothing to do with” the Minutemen and that the Southern Poverty Law Center (publisher of the Report and Hatewatch) was trying to discredit the movement.
The Minuteman movement, which Simcox co-founded with Jim Gilchrist, was a media sensation in 2005, when volunteers from across the country traveled to Cochise County, Ariz., for a “border watch” event. Simcox and Gilchrist soon split, and Simcox for several years headed a group he called the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. Though it came in with a bang, Simcox’s organization disbanded amid infighting and legal difficulties.
Gilchrist, who spoke to Hatewatch on Thursday, said that he had not spoken to Simcox in eight years. At the time, Gilchrist said it had become apparent that Simcox was socially “maladroit.”
“I am wary of anybody being accused of anything until we see the court process carried out,” Gilchrist said. “But if, in fact, he is guilty, my heart bleeds for those victims, whoever they are.”