Murders A-Z is a collection of true crime stories that take an in-depth look at both little-known and famous murders throughout history.
From the outside, Julene and Jeremy Simko had the perfect marriage. Living an idyllic farm life in Vermilion, Ohio, the couple seemed like they had it all. That is, until November 18, 2009 when Julene called 911, frantic that her husband has been shot in the back of the head and that the attacker was still in the house.
But when authorities arrived, they found the front doors locked and no one but Julene.
"There’s two people in the house, one person is dead, this lady’s hysterical, you have a lot of things running through your mind," Vermilion Police Chief Robert Kish told Oxygen's "Snapped."
"She’s covered with blood, she’s hysterical, so I kinda felt the best thing to do at the time was to get her to a hospital," said Kish.
So, what really happened?
Julene Knick was a typical Midwestern girl. She was considered "pleasant" by friends and even made the Honor Society. But behind the veneer, she held a dark secret.
"As a child, Julene was a victim of a sexual assault that was perpetrated on her by her father. Mr. Nick spent time in prison over this incident," Vermilion Police Detective Sergeant Stephen Davis told "Snapped."
Shortly after graduating from high school, Julene met the man who would become her husband, Jeremy Simko. Known as a "man's man," Jeremy had a temper.
"He was an aggressive person. He was a dominant person, and if you crossed him, there'd be a fight," shared friend Al Hopp.
Friends remembered the couple falling for each other instantly.
"She talked how much she loved Jeremy. I mean, there wasn't a story that didn't have Jeremy. They appeared to be best friends," said Jean Marie Becker.
"They worked together and played together. They were a normal, happy couple. Always together, it worked for them," added Hopp.
Authorities were stymied after coming to the Simko house on the night of the crime. How could this picture-perfect love end so violently? All they knew was that 36-year-old Jeremy Simko was dead, and Julene was hysterical.
As they investigated deeper, they found several red flags. The couple was very "security conscious."
"There were several alarms set up throughout the house. There were door alarms, there was alarms on the outside of the garage, there were window alarms," remembered Katie Nix, reporter at The Chronicle Telegram.
Authorities also found a large gun safe underneath stairs and a .357 Magnum revolver in the kitchen.
"There’s five live cartridges and one spent cartridge in the chamber. It appears he has one gunshot wound. So it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that very well might be the weapon that was used to shoot him," Vermilion Police Detective Sergeant Stephen Davis told "Snapped."
Upstairs, they found bullet holes and another gun, a 9MM Smith & Wesson, in their bedroom. They also stumble upon sex toys, which appear to have been used.
At the hospital, Julene told authorities that she woke up to find her husband bleeding. She claimed she heard someone in the house and got the Smith & Wesson for protection. When asked for a plausible motive, she claimed that the barn on their property had previously been robbed.
Julene was released, but the following morning, she called police to report that she had been robbed again. Upon arrival, authorities find the safe tampered with. Julene claimed $2,000 was missing, and the surveillance system was taken. Again, police were unable to track down any leads.
But on November 25, Julene threw an informal gathering and invited Corey Spores of the Vermilion Police. She told him that she wanted to confide something.
“I’d like to tell you what really happened, but I can’t,” she reportedly said.
When investigators reached out, her attorney puts a halt to the questioning. It seemed peculiar that the wife of a murder victim would need representation. So, authorities dug deeper into the couple's financial records and found out that they were in fiscal trouble. The coroner's report added more shockwaves: Jeremy was killed in extremely close quarters.
"Whoever shot him had to be within inches of him and basically almost either crawl in bed or lay in the bed," said Kish.
Once investigators got the fingerprint and DNA analysis back, they became even more suspicious of Julene.
There was really no evidence of an intruder being in there, there was no strange DNA, no prints," Kish told "Snapped."
Years go by without any breaks in the case, and Jeremy's friends start talking. It seemed that Julene was quick to move on after the murder.
"She wasn’t worried about her husband’s murderer being found. She never expressed any anger that somebody had murdered her husband," Davis recounted of a friend's observation.
Investigators dove back into the case evidence and went through the Simkos' personal photos and videos that revealed a shocking, darker side to the marriage.
"We began to uncover photo albums which would depict Mrs. Simko in forms of bondage," said Davis.
Some of the BDSM footage did not appear consensual.
"Mrs. Simko appears to be crying in some photos, she appears to be in pain. It’s hard to decide if she was genuinely enjoying the situation," said Davis.
Even more bewildering was a 14-page document that appeared to be a contract between Julene and Jeremy — a master-slave arrangement.
"The marital contract was actually a master slave agreement, and in it, it depicted Mr. Simko would be her father and Mrs. Simko would be his daughter," said Davis. "And they were very specific in their rituals and how each was to behave. Knowing that she had been a victim when she was a child, we were concerned that maybe she was being forced to do things that she didn’t want to do."
Police wondered if Julene had been victimized all over again. And on November 14, 2013, Julene finally came clean.
"I was a willing participant in everything that went on, in the bedroom," she said during police questioning. She denied being sexually abused by her husband and said it was only "role playing."
Four days later, authorities spoke to a first responder nurse who had questioned Julene on the night of the murder. She remembered an outburst that eventually crack the case: "I thought I heard the female say, 'I just shot my husband.'"
Davis told "Snapped," "The nurse was kind of startled and said, 'What did you say?' Because she wasn’t expecting that, and that Mrs. Simko then said, 'Oh, somebody shot my husband.'"
On December 19, 2014, Julene was indicted for aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault and tampering with evidence. The prosecution argued that the stressful master-slave relationship coupled with Julene's childhood abuse caused her to snap.
"The defense argument was, poor investigation by the police departments. Because of that, the court can’t come to a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that she committed the murder," remembered Judge Mark Anthony Betleski of Lorain County.
On October 20, 2017, he found Julene Simko guilty, reported The Morning Journal. She was sentenced to 28 years behind bars, according to The Chroncile. Her case is currently under appeal, and she will be eligible for parole in 2045.