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Just For Jesus guest Ernie Simmons back in jail

January 8, 2011

DUBOIS — A former death row inmate living in a Brockway shelter has been arrested again, and Pennsylvania’s parole board says it is looking into alleged parole violations — again.

Ernie Simmons, 53, was convicted and sentenced to death for beating and choking 80-year-old Anna Knaze in her Johnstown home in 1992. The conviction was overturned after an appeals court determined prosecutors withheld evidence.

Simmons then pleaded no contest to third-degree murder and was sentenced to time served plus probation. Simmons moved into the Just For Jesus Challenge Homeless Outreach Center, Brockway, last year.

A parole board spokesman said he was arrested Thursday and is being held in Cambria County jail.

DuBois City Police said the state board asked them to detain Simmons after a staff member at DRMC, where Simmons was receiving treatment Wednesday, said Simmons made a threat against another individual at Just For Jesus.

In November, Simmons was jailed after he traveled to Philadelphia to attend the funeral of his former attorney, which authorities said violated Simmons’ probation.

However, Judge Timothy Creany said the trip qualified as a short-term emergency and was justified, even though the bus Simmons was on went through Dauphin County, where he’s not permitted.

According to WTAJ-TV, Simmons left Just For Jesus Nov. 9 to attend the funeral of one of his appellate attorneys who helped get him a new trial in 2005 and, as defense attorney Tom Dickey said, “saved his life. The judge himself even said he applauded Ernie for that.”

Creany said Simmons violated his probation when he did not charge the batteries for his GPS ankle bracelet, and would not submit a hair sample for a drug test when he returned.

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