NEW ORLEANS - Five years after his brother's heinous murder, Kirt Simmons can't get closure knowing the killer is still on the loose.
"I won't be able to rest until his murderer is brought to justice," said Simmons.
Simmons brother, Willie Simmons, was found shot to death inside his cab in May 2007. It happened in the parking lot of the Christopher Homes development on Rose Lane in Algiers. Willie Simmons, a yellow cab driver, was 60 years old. He had recently moved back to New Orleans after Katrina.
His murder remains unsolved.
"I lost my best friend and my brother," said Simmons. "There's a void that exists that can't be replaced."
Kirt Simmons believes his brother picked up a fare from cab stand at Le Pavillon Hotel in the Central Business District before driving to Algiers.
Once a cab driver himself, Simmons said cabbies are especially vulnerable.
"At that point there weren't many ways you could protect yourself from the general public," said Simmons.
But measures are now being put in place to help protect cab drivers. The state legislature passed a bill this week that would make killing a cab driver punishable by the death penalty.
Sheree Kerner fought for that bill. She is president of United Cab Company. Her brother, Billy Kerner, was shot to death in his cab on the Westbank last year. His killer was convicted of second degree murder this month.
"I do feel like my brother can rest in peace now," said Kerner. "Getting this bill passed, we'll be able to put stickers in the back of the cab that say cab driver murderers get the death penalty offense in Louisiana. Hopefully a would-be killer will have 10 minutes to stare at that and change his mind before he pulls the trigger."
The governor must sign off on the bill in order for it to become law. Meanwhile, new city rules mean taxis must have cameras inside by August. Simmons believes that will help solve crimes more quickly as he prays desperately for justice.
"There's not enough darkness to hide forever," said Simmons. "We're asking people to open up their hearts. If there's information, if they could please give it so we can bring some resolve to this heart-wrenching situation that we've experienced for five years."
Simmons said he has experienced some challenges with New Orleans police.
"The person that was my contact person was constantly being reassigned," said Simmons. "With the multiple murders that's been taking place, it's hard for them to assign an efficient amount of personnel to cold case resolution. And I guess that's been a secondary victimization."
"The NOPD has homicide detectives who are specifically assigned to investigate cold cases," responded NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden. "Every homicide receives the same attention. Some cases are solved more quickly because evidence is more easily obtained and witnesses are more forthcoming. The case of Mr. Simmons has not been closed, and is considered as important today as it was the day it happened."
If you have any information that could help solve the murder of Willie Simmons, call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.
The reward has been increased to $4,000 and you don't have to leave your name.