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Victim of shooting spree plagued with nightmares

OZARK, Ark. -- A woman wounded in a December shooting spree testified Wednesday at the murder trial of accused mass killer Ronald Gene Simmons that she is plagued with nightmares about the incident.

Joyce Butts, 35, of Russellville, Ark., office manager at a freight company where Simmons once worked, was shot in the chest and head during the rampage on Dec. 28 in which two people were killed and three others wounded.

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Simmons, 47, of Dover, Ark., is being tried for capital murder in the shooting deaths of Kathy Kendrick, 24, and James Chaffin, 33, both of Russellville. He also is charged with five counts of attempted capital murder and one count of kidnapping.

A capital murder conviction is punishable in Arkansas by either lethal injection or life in prison without parole.

Simmons also is charged with killing 14 members of his family in the days preceding the shooting spree in Russellville, a north-central Arkansas town of about 14,000 residents. He is to be tried in July on those charges.

Butts said she barely had any initial recollection of the day, only remembering waking up in the hospital 10 days later after surgery to remove a bullet near her heart. She testified that as Simmons' superior, she had an argument with him over pay and that Simmons had shouted at her.

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'I have had scary nightmares almost constantly since the shooting,' Butts said.

Vicky Jackson, 32, of Russellville, who worked at the freight company and was taken hostage just before the gunman surrendered, testified she saw Simmons shoot Butts.

She said Simmons walked into the company office, paused in front of a Christmas tree and seemed to be talking to Butts, but then shot her from across her desk.

Jackson said she watched in horror as Simmons walked around the desk and shot her again. She said she thought it was some kind of cruel joke, and that blanks had been used.

She said she froze in the computer room where she worked and cried, 'Gene, please don't shoot me! Don't shoot me!'

'Vickey, I'm not going to shoot you!' Jackson quoted Simmons as replying. 'I want to turn myself in!'

After Simmons was arrested, sheriff's deputies went to his house and found the bodies of five relatives, including two of his children and their spouses. The next day, police dug into a shallow grave and found seven bodies, including those of his other children and his wife. In addition, the bodies of two infant boys in garbage bags were found in the trunks of abandoned cars on his property. They all were killed after arriving for a Christmas family gathering.

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