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Published: Thursday, 7/25/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Threats over Arias case coincide with state intention to seek death penalty again

David Lee Simpson. David Lee Simpson.

PHOENIX — A New York man indicted in Arizona on charges that he made Twitter threats against two national newscasters over their coverage of the Jodi Arias trial began his electronic tirades the same day a prosecutor announced he planned to try again for the death penalty against Arias, according to a probable cause statement.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s officers transported David Lee Simpson, 48, of Bath, N.Y., to Phoenix, where he was booked into jail Wednesday evening.

An Arizona grand jury indicted Simpson on July 18 on three felony counts of computer tampering and two counts of stalking.

According to the probable cause statement obtained by The Associated Press today, Simpson began making threats against Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell, both hosts of shows on Turner Broadcasting’s HLN network, on the evening of June 12.

Earlier that day, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he planned to try again to secure the death penalty for Arias.

Arias was convicted of first-degree murder May 8 in the June 2008 death of boyfriend Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home. The same jury later failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether to sentence Arias to life in prison or death.

While her murder conviction stands, prosecutors now have the option of pursuing a new penalty phase aiming for the ultimate punishment or avoiding it altogether, leading to a life sentence for Arias.

Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell both covered the nearly five-month trial regularly. And both focused heavily on Arias’ guilt, something that apparently angered Simpson, who said he was in love with Arias, according to court records.

Simpson does not yet have an attorney.

Turner Broadcasting indicated to Arizona authorities that both TV personalities would be interested in pursuing charges against the man, according to the probable cause filing.

The network also increased its security and told authorities “both Nancy and Jane were concerned for their safety,” the filing states.

The court records indicate a Phoenix woman also was threatened by Simpson via Twitter.

“She stated she was scared to death” and hadn’t left her house since receiving the threats “because she fears for her life,” according to the court records.

Among the first threatening Tweets was one aimed at Velez-Mitchell stating, “I will be waiting for you and Nancy” when Arias’ retrial begins.

In the same string of Tweets, Simpson indicated he was in Arizona and threatened to “slit Nancy Grace’s throat.”

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office investigators tracked the Twitter account to Simpson and flew to New York to interview him June 25, but Simpson had not yet been placed under arrest.

“He provided a full confession and stated he posted everything on Twitter because he was in love with Jodi Arias and he wanted a life with her,” according to the probable cause statement.

As the investigation continued, detectives received an email from Turner Broadcasting on July 15 that Grace and Velez-Mitchell were again receiving threats from a person they believed to be Simpson.

“Can’t wait see you in Arizona I’m excited,” he wrote in one, according to the records.

Two days later, the records state, authorities in New York took Simpson into custody after co-workers at a garage where the man worked told police he “had a loaded handgun, and stated he was going to kill Nancy Grace.”

On July 20, authorities searched a travel camper and car belonging to Simpson. They said they found two guns, a pair of handcuffs, several knives, binoculars, shotgun ammunition, a police scanner and receipts for purchases of two shotguns and a .22 caliber rifle.

Simpson was subsequently arrested. He is awaiting arraignment in Arizona set for Aug. 1.

Turner Broadcasting officials declined to comment.

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