66 Year Old Man Arrested in Cold Case Murder

A Lakewood, California man who had successfully lived a double life—and gotten away with murder in the process—was recently arrested by sheriff’s deputies.

James Edward Sims, now 66, is accused of the shooting death of Roy Radabaugh, 29, in 1981. The two fought in the parking lot of a Fort Myers, Florida bar over an exotic dancer named LaFonda Dalton, whom Sims was dating. According to officials with the Sheriff’s Department in Los Angeles County, Sims believed that Radabaugh was stalking her, and after an argument ensued, fatally shot Radabaugh in the face.

An arrest warrant was issued two days after the shooting by a Florida court, but Sims eluded capture by taking on the identity of another man, Willis Bronas, who had died in 1973. He left behind a wife, an 8-year-old daughter and an underwater salvage business in Florida, and lived for nearly 30 years before being apprehended.

Although the case had been featured on the television show “America’s Most Wanted” in 2005, a break didn’t come until about six months ago, when the Lee County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office cold case unit decided to take a second look. According to department spokesperson Tony Schall, they used “good old-fashioned police work” to uncover Sims’s alter ego. One of the pieces of evidence was a thumbprint which Bronas had submitted to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, as part of an application for a driver’s license, in 1997. They were able to match it to a print belonging to Sims which was already on file.

As Bronas, Sims started another underwater salvage company. He also met a woman, Sharon Beard, with whom he lived in a house which she had purchased in 2003. In addition to the salvage business, he also did construction work on boat landings, helped neighbors out with odd jobs and loaned them tools. They said that “Will,” as they knew him, kept to himself but always allowed neighborhood children to come play on the trampoline in his backyard. None of the neighbors had ever heard him mention having lived in Florida.

“This is all news to everybody,” said Steed Coats, who lived nearby and whose sons enjoyed jumping on the trampoline with Beard’s grandchildren.

Sims appeared in a Los Angeles County court earlier this week, waiving his right to fight extradition. He will be sent back to Florida to face trial on a first-degree murder charge. Until then, he remains in Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles, held without the possibility of bail.

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