A man who was referred to in court documents as a danger to society has been convicted of the brutal murder of Brandi Mathews, a young woman whose partial remains were found in 2009 alongside a creek bed near Eldon, more than two years after she disappeared.
The discovery of Mathews' skull and a witness were key in the investigation that led to the arrest and conviction this week of Kelly Simino, 43, formerly of Eldon.
Simino and Mathews had been involved in an abusive and destructive relationship, court documents show. Simino was charged earlier this year with her murder after a lengthy investigation.
After several days of testimony in a Laclede County courtroom, the jury hearing the state's case returned a guilty verdict in the second-degree murder trial.
The case was heard in Laclede County on a change of venue from Miller County. Simino will return to court in January for sentencing.
The verdict is justice for Mathews’ mother, her brother and the young son she left behind. The family was the driving force in convincing law enforcement that Mathews had been the victim of foul play.
At the time of her death, Mathews was an exotic dancer at a club in Osage Beach and was believed to be living in the Barnett area. Simino was well known to law enforcement in the lake area. He had a reputation for being rough and was associated with what investigators called the "drug culture."
In 2009, shortly after the partial remains were found, Deanna Roberts said in an interview with the Lake Sun that her daughter knew she was in a dangerous situation. She was saving money to try to leave. At one point, Roberts thought her daughter was ready to make the move. She had gone so far as to bring Matthews’ son to stay in Arkansas.
“It had swallowed her up and she didn’t know how to get out,” Roberts said during the interview. “That’s how she described it. It swallowed her up. Brandi was a smart girl, she loved her son, she loved to laugh, loved fishing and poetry and she had this smirky little smile, but she didn’t always make good decisions or use her common sense. She got caught up in something that she couldn’t get out of."
When Roberts learned that Mathews was still with Simino, a man she had no use for, she refused to let Mathews take the child. That was the last time Roberts saw her daughter. Shortly after that, Roberts said her daughter just seemed to vanish.
No one seemed to care, Roberts said.
Without any help from law enforcement, Roberts took it upon herself to try and find out what happened to her daughter.
Page 2 of 2 - She posed as a friend looking for Mathews, contacted people her daughter was known to associate with, tried to track her down using the Internet and went from one law enforcement agency to another looking for help.
Her attempts to locate Mathews were futile.
Roberts said no one would listen to her. They assumed because Mathews was a dancer and involved with Simino that she was a bad person.
"She was so much more than just a dancer; she wasn’t a bad person, but that’s what people thought,” Roberts said in 2009. “She was my baby girl, she was my ‘brainy smurf’ and she was a mother who loved her little boy. She was in danger and she knew she had to start over, but she never got the chance.”
The lack of interest from law enforcement changed when she contacted the Osage Beach Police Department. Although it wasn’t in their jurisdiction, former Police Chief Dave Severson assigned two detectives to the case.
From that point forward, the detectives — Tracy Robinett and Kevin Friend — worked with Roberts, the Missouri Attorney General's office and the Miller County Sheriff's Department. The Osage Beach investigators were honored earlier this year for their work on the case that resulted in Simino's arrest.