Simon Says

Motivational speaker Russell Simon made a career out of imploring teens to steer clear of drugs and alcohol. So why did he go on a drunken, meth-fueled rampage?

IN MAY 2007, Simon met Pam Wilcox through, an online dating service. The 47-year-old human resources manager was immediately taken by Simon's charm, but the familiar pattern developed as the relationship moved forward

Wilcox says she was not allowed to open her bills or go on the computer without Simon present. He called her between five and seven times a day and demanded that she provide her weekly work schedule so that he could better keep tabs on her.

"He took over my entire life," she says. "I had no life left. None whatsoever."

"I'll tell you the reason we haven't spoken in so long," says one of his siblings, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Because everything he's ever said or written about his childhood is a total fabrication."
"I'll tell you the reason we haven't spoken in so long," says one of his siblings, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Because everything he's ever said or written about his childhood is a total fabrication."
A mug shot from prison and a new name - #124938
A mug shot from prison and a new name - #124938


Also: See a letter Russell Simon wrote us from prison to accompany the story.

Tawnya's and Wilcox's descriptions of their relationships with Simon bear many similarities, including their mutual contention that Simon lied to them about his income.

"There's absolutely no way he ever made more than $100,000," declares Wilcox, whom Simon had told he made over $200,000 when they started dating.

"The weird thing is, he believes most of his lies," says Tawyna. "If it's something he's said so many times, I think he just comes to believe them."

Last year, Simon claimed an income of $51,500 on his tax return.

AT 1:45 A.M. ON MAY 15, 2008, Isanti County dispatcher Robert Dowd Jr. received a distress call from a man named Todd Paulson. The low, gruff voice on the other end of the phone said that his friend had just gone crazy. This friend had struck him across the face with a small statue and broke his nose. Later, the guy had gone upstairs and returned with a .380 pistol. "He started shooting at us."

Who? Who started shooting?

"Russ. Russ Simon."

Paulson, a short, goateed prison buddy of Simon's, had driven with Simon to a Cambridge Wal-Mart early that afternoon to buy a battery for Wilcox's black Cadillac. As Paulson would later testify, they got along fine at this point. No bickering. No arguing.

Early in the evening, they decided to hit up the bars. Simon downed at least eight white Russians, with a few shots of Jägermeister thrown in for good measure, before the night ended. Paulson—who had kept up with Simon, but was decidedly less drunk, thanks to a higher tolerance—took the wheel and the duo made the 10-minute drive to Pam Wilcox's country home where Simon had been living since March.

Once there, they woke up Wilcox, who helped a nauseated Simon to bed. He lay down for a short time, only to return, fully nude, to the garage area where Paulson and Wilcox were smoking cigarettes.

"I don't know what set him off," Paulson later testified. "He came at me and pushed me into the TV. I came back at him and punched him a few times. He fell backwards over the table onto the floor."

A two-and-a-half-foot plaster statue of John Wayne perched on the table came tumbling down. Simon got back on his feet, wielding the now-broken John Wayne statue, and swung it at Paulson's face, leaving a bloody gash across the bridge of his nose.

Somehow, Paulson managed to calm Simon down. "He kept saying, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, go ahead, punch me,'" Paulson says. "I told him to let it go."

The trio sat and talked in the garage area for 30-45 minutes. Just when it seemed the incident had blown over, Simon hurled a 20-ounce water bottle at Wilcox and roared at her, "Get upstairs, bitch!" Simon then slammed her head into the wall so hard that investigators later testified about a cranium-sized dent in the sheetrock.

Simon called for a stunned Wilcox to get upstairs. She complied. As she approached the stairs she saw a flash. Then heard a bang.

She ran back to the garage. "He's shooting at me!" she told Paulson. She hid behind a folded-up ping-pong table as Simon entered the garage firing. He got off at least two more shots, according to witness testimony. Paulson exited the garage unscathed. Wilcox began to follow, but then thought better of it. Her son was still inside.

Fearing for her boy's safety, she crept inside the house. She would later testify that Simon forced her at gunpoint to perform oral sex on him before passing out.

For the rest of the night, Wilcox stayed in the bedroom for fear of waking Simon. Meanwhile, Paulson had taken refuge in a wooded area adjacent to the house and called 911. At 5:45 a.m., about 30 Special Response Team officers in SWAT gear stormed into the home and arrested Simon, who, at this point, was out cold on his stomach, lying on a black-and-silver .380 automatic pistol.

AS THE JURORS FILED into the cozy Isanti County courtroom in Cambridge on August 18, Simon casually took a sip of coffee from a paper cup and eyed the dozen citizens tasked with deciding his fate. His blue sports jacket swallowed his uncharacteristically thin frame.

His bearded attorney, Barry Voss, had scored a modest victory earlier in the day when the judge approved a preliminary motion precluding the use of the urine analysis test as evidence—the urinalysis that was positive for pot, meth, and coke.

Still, Simon's legal defense team had a tall order in front of them: nine felony charges, including two counts of attempted murder, two counts of assault, not to mention a count of sexual assault. Moreover, the prosecution had three corroborating witnesses: Todd Paulson, Pam Wilcox, and her nine-year-old son.

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