10 months later, girl's killer unknown

By Hailey Winslow, General assignment reporter, hwinslow@wjxt.com
Published On: May 21 2014 04:45:33 PM EDT
Updated On: May 21 2014 07:09:40 PM EDT

Victims' families hope for the success of "Operation Ceasefire", an initiative to tackle crime in one of Jacksonville's most violent neighborhoods.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

It's been 10 months of agony and no one held responsible for the killing of Megan Simmons, who was shot and killed mistakenly during a sleepover at her friend's house in Biltmore.

Simmons (pictured below) would've turned 15 last month.

"We have a new baby now and she never got to see him," said Neta Sessions, Simmons' aunt. "My heart hurts for my sister every day because I have no idea the pain that she deals with losing her firstborn child."

"Sometimes we're just afraid it's going to go to a cold case and that we're not going to get justice for her," Sessions added. "But we still pray every day that we will because she was an innocent baby. She won't get to go to prom and she won't get to drive, she won't get to get married."

Police said drugs were the underlying motive for the shooting. They attribute that as the source to nearly every crime in Northwest Jacksonville and the Mid-Westside, now encompassed by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office's new initiative called Operation Ceasefire, aimed at cracking down on violence.

"All these thugs, we've got something for them," City Councilwoman Denise Lee said.

Lee walked the streets Wednesday and she pointed out the problem -- blight, which includes criminals and the way many there live their lives.

"People parked up on the city right away. That's the city gutter right there, look at the street, same old thing, so people go participate," Lee said. "Old cars parked in the yard, code enforcement is working on that. We're in all of these neighborhoods."

Operation Ceasefire includes catching crooks on cameras, setup and moved around in target areas. Police also plan to knock on 18,000 doors, hoping for information to help solve and prevent crime.

So what's the answer for families torn apart and heartbroken forever?

"For them to get engaged," Lee said. "When you see something wrong, you've got to call it in. If your neighbor isn't mowing their lawn, turn them in. If there are people hanging on the corner, selling drugs or doing illicit things, turn them in."

Simmons' family said the other solution to stopping violence is better parenting.

"To me, it's just all in how you raise your child," Sessions said. "And keep an eye on your children and keep them close because it's not safe anymore."

Lee is also asking the community to join a Blight AdHoc Advisory Committee to share their problems and ideas for solutions.

There are two committees. The landscape and mowing blight committee, which deals with people who don't keep up with their yards and homes. It meets every other Thursday at 10 a.m. on the first floor of City Hall in the Lynwood Roberts room.

The other one is called the human blight committee, which deals with people who commit crimes. It meets every other Friday at 9 a.m. in the same room at City Hall.

Lee said the criminals are taking over and residents are letting them. She said it's time to take a stand and do the right thing.

If you have information about a crime, make an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers at 866-845 TIPS.

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