Former Sutter County Sheriff's deputy awarded full custody of three teenage daughters, despite their wishes

Robert J Hansen

Deputy’s ex-wife alleges he was verbally and emotionally abusive to her and their children
Former Sutter County Sheriff's Deputy Will Simmons was granted full custody of his three daughters in a Yuba Court in May 2022.(Courtesy of Kanitra Heard)

Sacramento, Calif. - By Robert J Hansen

Kanitra Heard says her marriage to Will Simmons, a former Sutter County Sheriff’s deputy, became abusive after moving to Yuba County in 2007.

Often times law enforcement were called but reports were not filed because of Simmons’ relationship with Yuba City Police and the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office, according to Heard.

In January of 2021, Heard left her Yuba City home with her three teenage daughters because Will’s alleged abuse and threats became too much for her.

Then last May, a Yuba County judge awarded Simmons full custody of his daughters who themselves say do not feel safe with their father according to court records.

“As a mother, knowing I can’t protect my children because of the system that’s in place, made my decision that I had to leave,” Heard said.

Heard feels that because Simmons is a former Sutter County Sheriff's deputy and now, an agent with the Department of Homeland Security, he was shown favorably treatment by Judge Melanie Bendorf at the expense of her and her daughter’s safety and well-being.

Heard says for months the court refused to hear her daughter’s testimonies of feeling unsafe with their father.

“My kids are frustrated as well,” Heard said.
Yuba County judge Judge Melanie Bendorf.Yuba County Court

Becci Barnett, a friend of the family, said that two of the daughters tried to tell police they would rather go with CPS than be with their father.

“She took her younger sister and went across the street and called the police,” Barnett said. “And was trying to tell them that they would rather go with CPS than stay with him.”

In an audio recording, one of the daughters is heard telling a police officer she is frightened of Simmons.

“You have to help,” the daughter said. “I just said I don’t feel safe and I feel uncomfortable.”

The officer can be heard telling her that what she was describing “happened in the past,” and that she needed to go home to her dad’s house.

“I feel like I don’t even feel safe with law enforcement right now,” the daughter said. “Because you’re not doing anything else to help.”

Simmons could not be reached for comment and neither could Judge Bendorf.

Moet Simmons, Will’s sister, claims that Heard was the abusive one and would provide court documents to support her but has yet to weeks later.

A supervised visit review is scheduled for July 25 where Heard plans to ask her attorney to request an emergency hearing to change custody.

“My kids were taken from me, they were ripped from me without just cause,” Heard said.

This is the first part of an ongoing story.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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