The stories of Tammy Corbett & Paula Sims
Welcome to the very first episode of The Midwest Crime Files! I’m your host Gina Glaub. This blog (and podcast) aims to tell the stories of crimes committed in the small towns of the Midwest and how they changed their communities forever. For our debut episode, I’d like to tell you the stories of two women from Brighton, IL in the 1980s. Brighton, near Alton, was a very small town at the time with a population of about 2,400 people. Among the 2400 people were the Eveans and Sims families. This is the story of the Brighton Baby Killers.
Tammy Corbett was born in Illinois in 1965. Tammy, the oldest of two daughters, was described as an outgoing and sociable youth. Sometime in her childhood she suffered a head injury during a swimming accident. However, the effects of this accident didn’t seem to stop Tammy from thriving during her freshman year of high school where she was class president and a cheerleader. By all accounts, she appeared to be a healthy, happy teenager. But that was about to change.
Around 1982, family and friends notice a dramatic change in Tammy’s behavior. Her grades, once mostly As, start to plummet. Tammy also starts drinking heavily and behaving very out of character. Tammy tells her family and friends that she was raped. However, her story of how the rape occurred seems to vary depending on who she is telling the story to. According to court records, she first claimed to be raped by a boyfriend. Second, she said she was grabbed from behind by a stranger when getting into her car. Finally, she claimed she was raped by a black man. The stories were never consistent enough to be taken seriously, and many people believed she was just a pathological liar.
I don't think it’s impossible that she experienced a severe trauma such as rape. That would explain her behavioral changes and self-destructive behavior. I think it’s entirely possible that she did suffer rape trauma, but fabricated different stories to protect her rapist or possibly out of fear. That being said, there are definitely other possible causes for her behavior. Perhaps she, as many teenagers do, began experimenting with alcohol and just didn’t care about school anymore. Perhaps she had some sort of mental illness, which often present symptoms during adolescence. This of course is all just conjecture. Nevertheless, she clearly was a disturbed young woman.
After high school, Tammy met and married Richard Eveans. However, Tammy quickly showed her husband how unstable she truly was when she attempted suicide on their honeymoon after an argument. I couldn’t find many details of her suicide attempt, but I think it’s important to mention because it showed potential mental instability. However, many people close to Tammy believe it was for attention. It’s not long after they are married that Tammy becomes pregnant.
On July 19th, 1986 Richard Eveans Jr. was born. The couple seemed to adore their young son whom they called Ricky for short. Ricky would not be their only child for very long. Tammy became pregnant again soon after Ricky was born, and on July 31st, 1987 the couple welcomed another son, Robert Eveans. Richard described his wife as a loving mother to both of their sons as well as his daughter from a previous relationship who was around ten when her siblings were born.
Now if you remember, I told you Tammy was known to be dramatic. That propensity for drama continued even after becoming a mother. When Richard took a job as a painter to support his growing family, Tammy was not a fan of him being away from the house frequently. Family and friends of Tammy said she was angry with her husband for being gone so much for work and strived to have his attention. It has been reported that Tammy even made comments about “getting even” with Richard for working so much.
In September 1987, Richard got a call to come home from his job as a painter because his son Robbie, then just seven weeks old, had been hurt. Richard rushed home to be with his family and soon learned that Robbie had a fractured skull and was rushed to the hospital when he stopped breathing at home. Tammy told her husband and the hospital that she had been downstairs doing laundry when the baby started crying. She came up to find the baby laying on the floor. She said she had left the baby on the kitchen table when she went downstairs to do the laundry and thought that her toddler son Ricky had pulled the baby off the table by pulling the tablecloth.
Richard took some time off work to comfort his wife and be with his son. During the time Robbie was in the hospital he seemed to do well and had no difficulty breathing. After a few days, Richard decided it was time to go back to work. After all, he was supporting a family of five. This would prove to be a mistake. Robert Eveans died at the hospital on September 25th, 1987. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death as spinal meningitis as a result of the skull fracture. No foul play was suspected by authorities, and Tammy seemed genuinely devastated by the loss of her son.
Not long after Robbie’s death, Tammy once again became pregnant. On August 16th, 1988 Amy Cecille Eveans was born. On September 1st, 1988, Richard awoke to his wife yelling that she had to go check on Amy. From my research, it seems like she shot directly out of bed and ran straight to the crib. That is where she found Amy, just sixteen days old, cold and lifeless. The death was determined to be caused by sudden infant death syndrome and foul play was once again not suspected. Richard asked his wife why she ran to Amy’s crib that morning, and she explained to him that she was having a horrible dream where Amy’s name had replaced Robert’s on the headstone.
Now this family has lost not one but two children in just a little over a year. That is obviously devastating and gut wrenching. But that is not where our story ends. Not even a year after Amy’s death, Tammy would dial 911 to report that her three-year-old son was not breathing.
Richard Eveans Jr. died on this third birthday, July 19th, 1989. After Tammy reported that her son was not breathing, he was rushed to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Alton, Illinois where he was pronounced dead. Tammy claimed that she had been asleep with her son and woke up to him not breathing. This time, suspicions were immediately raised. Tammy eventually told authorities that she had been having a nightmare about the rape she experienced as a teenager and believes she smothered her son while in the midst of this nightmare. His cause of death was in fact asphyxiation.
On August 10th, 1989 Tammy Eveans, then using her married name, was arrested for the murder of her three-year-old son Richard Eveans Jr. It seems almost immediately after her arrest alarm bells started going off for not only investigators but everyone who knew Tammy. That’s when some very interesting details come to light and the investigations into Robert and Amy’s deaths are reopened.
While Tammy sat in the county jail awaiting her trial, she has a phone conversation with an acquaintance of hers named Lynn. Lynn would later testify that during that conversation Lynn expressed to Tammy that she had no doubts that she murdered Robert and Amy and that Tammy then stated “It was my hands. It wasn’t me. It was my hands”. Lynn claimed she yelled at the defendant “You killed Robbie!” to which Tammy responded “No, Ricky” and then claimed to have nothing to do with the death of her daughter. On September 14th, 1990, Tammy was found guilty but mentally ill of murder in Jersey County Illinois and sentenced to twenty years in the department of corrections for the death of Richard Eveans Jr. The same month, her husband Richard Sr. divorced her.
Richard would later testify that in April of 1990 he visited Tammy in jail while she was awaiting trial. He said that during his conversation with Tammy she admitted to placing her hand over Robert’s mouth suffocating him while he laid in the hospital. She also allegedly admitted to her then husband to placing her hand over Amy’s mouth, ending her young life in the same manner. According to Richard, she laughed during this conversation and commented that she can’t understand how Richard didn’t wake up when she was killing Amy. Tammy was charged with the murders of Robert Eveans and Amy Eveans in April of 1991.
Tammy seemed to enjoy telling people about the crimes she committed. Several inmates testified at her second trial that she admitted to killing all three of her children by suffocation and also recounted several stories of being raped as a teenager. One inmate testified that during a conversation with Tammy she said: “when Amy and Robbie died, they both kicked their legs real hard like a little baby would kick their legs trying to swim in the water”.
So why were these babies’ deaths ruled natural or accidental if Tammy had in fact murdered them? Dr. William Drake testified at trial that he performed the original autopsy on Amy Eveans and determined her cause of death to be cardiorespiratory arrest due to anoxia, meaning lack of oxygen and breathing. He further explained that SIDS is essentially “failure to breathe for unknown reasons” and that SIDS and suffocation is often indistinguishable in such a small infant.
Raj Nanduri was the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsies on Robert and later Richard Jr. She testified that meningitis is not always fatal. Furthermore, she stated that Robert’s death was not inconsistent with suffocation and that it is very hard to distinguish suffocation from other causes of death in a small child. Dr. Nanduri performed Richard’s autopsy and determined the cause of death to be suffocation and was the one who then suggested the other two deaths be investigated.
Mary Case, another pathologist, reviewed the autopsies of Robert and Amy. She testified that Robert did not have meningitis, but localized brain inflammation and she believed his cause of death should be undetermined. She also stated that suffocation was very hard to distinguish in very small infants. Dr. Case also testified that SIDS typically occurs in children who are older than one month, where Amy was just 16 days old. She also testified that SIDS should not be the cause of death without a full investigation into family history, including deaths of other children. It was her opinion that given the family history, Amy and Robert’s deaths should be considered homicides.
Other testimony at trial helped to seal Tammy’s fate. Her sister-in-law testified that she had suspicions all the way back in 1987 when Robert was injured. First, she said that she did not believe Ricky pulled Robbie off the table because Ricky was only thirteen months old and could not yet walk. Second, she claimed that she went to the house to get items for her brother and sister-in-law while they were at the hospital with Robbie. While there, she said she found it very suspicious that there was no tablecloth on the table and no blood on the floor around the table. Finally, she testified that Tammy often told her she was going to get even with Richard Sr. for being away too much and that when Robbie was in the hospital she saw Tammy lean over him and say “Don’t worry baby, I got even”.
The most damning testimony against Tammy, however, would come from her own stepdaughter, now twelve years old. Her stepdaughter lived with Richard and Tammy at the time of these deaths and testified to witnessing Tammy put her hands over Robbie and Amy’s mouths at different times and watching their feet kick. She also testified that on the day Ricky died, she heard Tammy yell in a loud and mean voice “you’re going to die”. She said she was too scared of her stepmother to do anything except hide in her room. She did not tell anyone at the time because she was afraid Tammy would hurt her.
On February 5th, 1993, Tammy Corbett, now divorced and using her maiden name, was found guilty of the murders of Robert and Amy Eveans. On February 10th, 1993 she is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Tammy filed appeals in 1993 and 1996 that were both denied. Tammy is currently serving her sentence at the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, Illinois.
Now, I have to tell you, when I read about Tammy Corbett my jaw hit the floor. Her crimes were terrible, but that’s not why I was so shocked. I was shocked because it reminded me so much of a story I knew very well. A story that involved many of the same investigators because it happened in the same county at the same time. In fact, it all starts once again in Brighton.
Paula Sims was born Paula Blew in May of 1959 in Missouri. Paula had a rather normal upbringing with her parents happily married and two older brothers. However, that changed when Paula’s older brother Randall died in a car accident. Paula was very close with her brother and was reportedly devastated by this loss.
However, by summer of 1986 Paula was married to Robert Sims. Robert was a graduate of Alton High School and worked at the Alton Box Board company. His background was not without blemish. In my research I found mention of a shop lifting charge and allegations of misconduct from a former employer. Robert had also been married once before, but his former wife divorced him due to “extreme and repeated mental cruelty”.
On June 5th, 1986 Paula gave birth to the couple’s first child, Loralei Marie Sims. Those close to the couple described some strange circumstances following the birth of their daughter. For instance, it is reported that Robert would not allow Paula to sleep in their marital bed after the birth of their daughter, so Paula and the baby slept in the finished basement of their home. Robert often worked nights and claimed the sleeping arrangements were to accommodate his sleeping schedule.
In fact, he was working the night shift on June 17th, 1986 when Paula pounded on the door of her elderly neighbor. She sobbed as she told her neighbor that someone had stolen her baby. The Jersey County police department soon arrived to investigate the alleged kidnapping. Paula claimed that a masked gunman entered her home and forced her to lay down on the floor. She claimed the gunman then kidnapped her newborn daughter. The police immediately had doubts about the story and began a massive search for baby Loralei.
Many things about Loralei’s disappearance didn’t sit quite right with investigators. First, the scene showed no indications of a struggle. Then, the next morning, divers were getting ready to search a pond near the home when investigators suggested Paula come to the station for a formal statement. Her response was “No, I want to be here when they bring her body up”. She quickly realized what she said and rephrased “No that’s not what I mean. I mean my baby is alive and I want to be here when they bring her on to the porch”. Despite this shocking statement, the divers did not find anything that day. Investigators strongly suspected Robert and Paula of foul play and heavily questioned the couple, prompting them to hire an attorney.
On June 24th, 1986, the search for Loralei was still in action. The police decided to search a wooded area in the opposite direction of the home from what Paula Sims had explained as the intruder’s path. When they mentioned searching the area, Robert Sims advised they not due to heavy poison ivy, which drew even more suspicion from the investigators. Why would anyone be worried about poison ivy when their daughter is missing? Dogs were brought to the area and after a quick search the body of Loralei Marie Sims was found.
The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be asphyxiation by either a hand or blanket being held over the baby’s mouth and nose. However, the Sims were no longer cooperative with authorities and there was not enough physical evidence to secure an indictment in the case. Robert and Paula picked up and moved to Alton, Illinois.
In February 1988, Randall Troy Sims was born to Robert and Paula Sims. Nurses at the hospital described Robert as very attentive and proud father. Robert built a privacy fence around their Alton home and Paula kept the curtains covered with shades. Neighbors found the family to be very quiet and noted that they kept to themselves. On March 18th, 1989, Paula gave birth to another child, Heather Lee Sims. The same nurses who cared for Paula during the birth of Randy described Robert as inattentive and uninterested in the birth of his daughter.
While in the hospital following Heather’s birth, Paula told an interesting story to her roommate. She told the story of her first child, Loralei Sims. She explained to her hospital roommate that a masked gunman knocked her unconscious while she was taking out the trash and kidnapped her daughter, a different story than she told authorities.
On April 29th, 1989, police were called once again to the Sims home. This time, Robert called the police to tell them he came home from work to find his wife Paula lying on the kitchen floor unconscious. He was able to wake her, but when he went to check on his children, he found that Heather, then six weeks old, was missing. Two-year old Randy was safe in his bed. A shaken Paula told police that she was taking out the trash when a masked intruder forced her by gunpoint into the house and then knocked her unconscious. She claimed the intruder must have stolen her baby. Again.
The investigators were immediately suspicious. Paula had no injuries noted. No signs of blunt force trauma, no scrapes, not even a bump on the head. No signs of a struggle were noted in the home. Even more suspicious, Paula made a comment to her husband in front of investigators “My son’s alright. That’s all the matters”.
A massive search effort was made to find Heather Sims. However, it wasn’t until May 9th, 1989 when a fisherman in East Alton, Missouri, just over the Mississippi River from Alton, found Heather’s body in a trash bag in a bin. The cause of death was once again determined to be asphyxiation by someone placing either a hand or blanket over the nose and mouth of the baby. Randall Sims was moved to foster care while the case was investigated to ensure his safety.
In the Forensic Files episode on the case, they explain that the trash bag Heather’s body was found in was forensically connected to the Sims. It was determined the bag was made within ten seconds of a roll of trash bags of the same brand found in the Sims home. The pathologist also determined that Heather’s body had different degrees of decomposition externally and internally, indicating the baby’s body had been frozen after her death. Paula Sims was arrested and charged with murder on July 2nd, 1989. There was not enough evidence to charge Robert Sims with a crime.
During her trial, the defense presented evidence that Paula Sims did not prefer boys to girls. They showed doll clothes she had saved from her own childhood for her future daughters. However, this evidence paled in comparison to the evidence against her and the testimony of bizarre behavior in the Sims home. Investigators testified that during questioning of Robert Sims, Robert described that after Heather disappeared the couple had a night of satisfying sex while their daughter was missing. This was odd enough on its own, but friends of Paula testified that Paula was banned from the marital bed after both Loralei and Heather’s births, but not after the birth of her son. A friend described Paula venting to her about frustrations over the marital situation and Roberts rules for the marriage. Along with the forensic evidence, this testimony was enough to convict Paula Sims on January 30th, 1990. The judge sentenced her to life in prison without parole but spared her the death penalty.
Later in 1990, Robert divorced Paula Sims and regained custody of their son Randy. Paula eventually confessed to the murders of both Loralei and Heather. She never implicated her ex-husband in the killings. Robert went on to raise Randy and remarried in 2002. He was said to live a Christian life and often preached outside abortion clinics. Randy grew up to be a teacher a Collinsville Christian Academy. Tragically, both Robert and Randy were killed in a drunk driving accident while on a religious mission trip in Mississippi in 2015.
Paula Sims appealed her conviction multiple times despite confessing to the crimes. She claimed her attorney did not provide her proper representation and requested that post-partum depression be entered as a defense. A clemency request was denied by Governor Bruce Rauner. So far, all appeals have been unsuccessful. The most recent petition for a new trial was filed in November 2019 according to People Magazine. It is unclear if the courts will consider her petition.
These two stories were so similar in that they were both committed by mothers. Both mothers lived in Brighton, IL during at least one of the murders. However, the stark differences in the cases interested me even more. Paula Sims story was highly publicized and resulted in a made for television movie, Precious Victims, in 1993. The case was also featured on the television shows Forensic Files and Deadly Women. There are multiple books about the case as well. As a true crime buff, I have heard Paula’s story multiple times and its very familiar to others in Southern Illinois. That being said, until I started my research, I didn’t even know who Tammy Corbett was. In my research, I couldn’t find any books, movies, or shows based on Tammy’s case.
The second distinction I found was the involvement of the father of the children. While both were part of a married union, Tammy’s husband was never suspected of any involvement, and is actually thought to the be true target of the crimes. Many believe Tammy killed her children to get revenge on her husband for working too much. In contrast, many suspected Robert Sims of being involved in the murder or at least cover up of the deaths of his daughters. The motive was thought to be pressure put on Paula by her husband, who didn’t want daughters.
The last distinction I found was that although all five children were killed by asphyxiation, Tammy was able to convince doctors and family members including her husband that the first two deaths were accidental. Paula, on the other hand, concocted a sensational story of a masked intruder and kidnapping, immediately drawing suspicion.
One thing these cases definitely have in common is that the women killed multiple of their own children and the patterns of death lead to their arrests and convictions. Both women are currently in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections and housed at Logan Correctional Center.
Murderpedia; Tammy Corbett; Retrieved at: Tammy Corbett | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
Simmons, Toni; Wicked We; Tammy Corbett- The Death of Her Third Child Prompted a Look See; Retrieved at: Tammy Corbett – The Death Of Her Third Child Prompted A Look See – Wickedwe
Stacey, B., Staton, C., Stephenson, L., Taylor, C.; Department of Psychology Radford University; Tammy Corbett; Retrieved at: Microsoft Word - Corbett, Tammy - spring, 2006.doc (murderpedia.org)
Illinois Department of Corrections: Offenders (illinois.gov)
Harris (2019) People Magazine; Mom Killed 2 Baby Daughters 3 Years Apart, But Now Claims Post-Partum Psychosis and Wants New Trial; Retrieved at: Woman Seeks New Trial 30 Years After Killing Infant Daughters | PEOPLE.com
Forensic Files Now (2019) Paula Sims: A Mother Snaps Twice; Retrieved at: Paula Sims: A Mother Snaps Twice – Forensic Files Now
Precious Victims (1993) Made for Television Movie: Retrieved at: Based On a True Story ✬ Precious Victims ✬ Lifetime movies based on True Stories - YouTube
Forensic Files (1998) Similar Circumstances: Season 3 Episode 6; Aired 11/5/1998; Retrieved at: Medical Detectives (Forensic Files) - Season 3, Ep 6 : Similar Circumstances - YouTube
Murderpedia; Paula Marie Sims; Retrieved at: Paula Sims | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
Schmidt (2019) The Telegraph; Paula Sims, the Alton woman who murdered her 2 children in 1989, asks court for a new trial; Retrieved at: Paula Sims, the Alton woman who murdered her 2 children in 1989, asks court for a new trial - Alton Telegraph (thetelegraph.com)
The Telegraph (2015) The Telegraph: Light After Darkness: Robert and Randy Sims led Christian Life; Retrieved at: Light after darkness: Robert and Randy Sims led Christian life - Alton Telegraph (thetelegraph.com)
Gillerman (2015) St. Louis Post Dispatch; Ex-husband, son of Alton woman who killed two daughters die in crash; Retrieved at: Ex-husband, son of Alton woman who killed two daughters die in crash | Law and order | stltoday.com
People Vs. Sims (2001) People Vs. Sims; Retrieved at: https://caselaw.findlaw.com/il-court-of-appeals/1257236.html