LEE COUNTY — James Edward Sims had just three words for the Lee County sheriff’s detectives who located him near Los Angeles on Friday morning: “You got me.”
It took awhile — 29 years to be exact — and some good detective work, but authorities say Sims’ past finally caught up with him. On Friday, detectives located Sims at his Lakewood, Calif., home and arrested him on a charge of first degree murder in the 1981 assassination of 29-year-old Roy Radabaugh outside a Fort Myers nightclub.
“He was surprised, needless to say,” said Lt. Bill Kalstrom, whose been working the case since 1985.
It was an argument over a woman, a stripper named Lafonda Dalton, at the Fox Den on Fowler Street that authorities say lead Sims to shoot Radabaugh on January 18, 1981. Dalton told Sims, who she was dating at the time, that Radabaugh, her ex-boyfriend, was outside the bar stalking her, according to the America’s Most Wanted website.
Sims went out, walked up to Radabaugh, who was sitting in a truck, and shot him in the face, according to America’s Most Wanted.
“At the time, someone else in the vehicle was frightened, drove the vehicle off and abandoned it across town in the county’s jurisdiction,” Kalstrom said.
Investigators knew right away who their suspect was, but Sheriff Mike Scott said Sims “basically disappeared into thin air.” After killing Radabaugh, authorities say Sims went home to his 8-year-old daughter and said goodbye, according to America’s Most Wanted.
Radabaugh had a daughter about the same age.
Because they are still investigating the case and are trying to determine if anyone aided and abetted Sims, investigators are keeping tight-lipped about what, exactly, he’s been doing for the past three decades. However, Scott said Sims “did assume the identity of a person who is deceased and has been deceased for some time.”
Investigators have been looking for Sims ever since the killing, putting out “be on the lookout” notices and featuring the case on America’s Most Wanted.
It was Myra Simmons, an analyst in the Sheriff’s Office’s cold case unit, who spent the past six months digging through information and cross-referencing data that drew investigators’ attention to California, Kalstrom said. There they found Sims’ driver license and matching thumb print.
On Thursday, Lee County detectives flew out to Lakewood Calif., near Los Angeles, intent on tracking Sims down. They staked out his home, and located him Friday morning.
Scott and Kalstrom credited the arrest to “tireless” detective work and improved technology.
“This serves notice to criminals, and I think it serves notice to our citizens, that we don’t forget,” Scott said.
Sims is scheduled to make his first appearance in California court on Tuesday. At that point the extradition process will be addressed, the Sheriff’s Office reported.