Shenandoah shooter denied bail a second time, living victim tells story of ‘out of the blue’ attack

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~ PVN staff report

LURAY, Aug. 24 — A Shenandoah man was denied bail a second time in a Page County court on Wednesday after being charged with the first degree murder of Jay Scott Campbell, and the aggravated malicious wounding of his son, Justice Campbell, last month.

Scott Simandl, 47, was apprehended at the scene on July 21 without incident — although he did first flee the scene on foot, according to an incident report, but was later apprehended on his porch at 225 Buzzard View Place.

The incident report states that a subsequent Facetime interview was held with the surviving victim and he stated that “himself and his father [deceased] had been mowing all day and arrived back in the neighborhood and were going to mow one more yard on Cold Springs Road.”

“The victim stated that his father told him they were going to his house, which is located just down the road from the suspect’s house on Buzzard View Place, and he drove off. The victim stated that he was able to make ‘one pass’ around the yard on the lawnmower before hearing gunfire,” the report states.

On Wednesday in Page County Circuit Court, Justice Campbell walked up to the witness stand with the assistance of a crutch and gave testimony reflected in the previously filed report.

“He stated that he did not think his father had time to arrive home, but the sounds appeared to be coming from that direction so he drove the lawnmower towards the residence to see what was happening,” the incident report stated. “He stated that when he turned the corner onto Buzzard View Place, he observed his father’s truck, stationary in front of the driveway to 225 and observed a male walking up the hill towards the residence.

“He stated he did not see the truck moving and continued forward to see why his father was parked in the road. Victim stated that he was trying to see his father through the driver’s side door mirror, when he felt something hit him while he was still seated on the lawnmower,” the report continued. “At that point he began to look around, and observed a white male, with dark hair, wearing a blue shirt and ‘tannish’ colored shorts pointing a handgun at him and continued to fire. The victim abandoned the lawnmower and began to retreat to the nearby wooded area to take cover behind a tree, as the male continues to engage him with gunfire.”

On Wednesday, Justice would testify that he saw in the mirror that his father wasn’t moving — and then he felt “a pain in his gut.” He also testified that when he tried to get off the mower and tried to run, his foot didn’t work properly. He managed to hide behind a tree in a ditch, he said, and called a friend to pick him up. The incident report stated that “once the male stopped shooting at him, he turned around and walked back to the residence at 225.”

Investigator Nathan Baugher of the Page County Sheriff’s Office testified for the Commonwealth that he arrived about half an hour after the shooting and found Jay Campbell dead in his truck at Simandl’s property. He also found a large quantity of rifles and ammunition in Simandl’s house, while a search of Campbell’s truck revealed no firearms.

A second victim, Justice, was located in the area of 181 Wildwood Lane with multiple gunshot wounds.

At the point of his recent Facetime interview, Justice had already undergone one surgery at the U.Va. Medical Center, stating “he suffered multiple gunshot wounds in the abdomen, back and left foot,” according to the report. “Per hospital staff, the victim had several abdominal wounds as well as a fractured ankle, which would require an additional surgery to repair. The injuries to the surviving victim are severe and significant to cause physical impairment.”

On Wednesday, Justice testified that he was still in pain, noting it feels like someone “dragged a knife” along his leg.

At today’s bond hearing, Simandl’s attorney Jerri Fuller argued that issuing bond was appropriate because his client had no criminal history, owned his own home in Shenandoah for the past four years, held a college degree and was employed as a biopharmaceutical engineer at Merck. One of his coworkers from Merck appeared in court to support him. Fuller also stated that his client would be a good candidate for wearing a GPS ankle bracelet with a geofence set up around his coworker’s house in Waynesboro that he could not leave.

Fuller also stated that the incident occurred on his client’s property and he would be claiming self-defense at trial. In addition, Fuller stated that Simandl had previously made at least two calls to the Page County Sheriff’s Office over disputes with his neighbor, deceased victim Jay Campbell. The defense attorney acknowledged that his client was carrying a firearm on the day in question because he lived in the woods and “feared encountering a bear.” Fuller made a brief mention of “mental health concerns” on the part of his client, but did not elaborate.

Page County Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Cave argued that Simandl was a flight risk because his family was out of state, even though he had a good job and a house here — but more importantly, he was a danger to the community. Cave characterized the incident as terrifying to think that someone could shoot their neighbor out of the blue. He strongly urged the court not to grant bond, for fear that Simandl would finish what he started, since one victim was still alive. 

Judge Daryl Funk noted that he was denying bail mainly on the danger argument, although he was also concerned about Simandl being a flight risk because he had the means to flee. The bench also expressed strong concerns that this was an attack that came out of the blue. Judge Funk also noted that the presumption of innocence does not apply at bond hearings, only at trial; so his decision to deny bail was based only on flight risk and danger.

Although bond was previously denied to Simandl during a hearing in Page County General District Court, defendants are entitled to a second hearing by the higher court, the Page County Circuit Court.

In addition to being charged with first degree murder and aggravated malicious wounding, Simandl also faces two additional felony charges for two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Investigators found multiple spent shell casings on the ground near the driveway, and the incident reports that “deputies observed surveillance cameras on the residence that may have captured the shooting.”

“The victim was unsure of a name of the individual, but did accurately describe the clothing, which was seized from the suspect as well as his physical features. The victim stated he could identify the male as the man that lives at 225 Buzzard View Place, as he was his neighbor,” the report states. “The victim accurately described the house and the location of the house in which the suspect was apprehended and also advised that he knew the suspect to drive a Jeep, which was also confirmed. To his knowledge, there was no else who resided at the residence with the male.”

Following an investigation of the crime scene, Jay Scott Campbell’s body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Northern District, for an autopsy. Page County Sheriff’s Office deputies, the Shenandoah Police Department, Virginia State Police, the Elkton Police Department, the Luray Police Department, and the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office all responded to the scene.

The Page County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division was assisted by the Virginia State Police Division II Bureau of Criminal Investigations, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Charges against Simandl remain pending in the Page County General District Court awaiting a preliminary hearing, which is currently scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022.

Search the status of cases in Page County at the website for Virginia’s court system.

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1 Comment

  1. Self defense my foot Jay Campbell was my cousin there was never a sweeter nicer person than Jay on this earth I have never heard him speak a mean word about anyone I hope this man gets just what he deserves life without parole

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