Updated: Apr 29, 2021
Please note that this, and all episodes of Thrice Cursed have been adapted from their original spoken form to text by myself, and some additional ad-libbed content may have been omitted. All content within is the sole property of Thrice Cursed Podcast. Please don't plagiarize. Plagiarism sucks.
Hello. I’m Rebekkah Rosewood, and this is Thrice Cursed.
Welcome to the second episode of the month of love. Last week we discussed finding love in even the strangest of places, and off-the-wall dating methods. This week, we’ll talk about a more traditional means of finding a partner, and the pitfalls of that. Unfortunately, the living can’t simply be exorcised out of your life. Believe me, if they could, I’d know about it. I have a mighty need! And with that, let’s begin.
On Monday October 7th, 2002, firefighters were called to the parking lot of Mountain House Bar in Tracy, California. Within the parking lot of this local biker’s bar was a 1989 Ford Mustang, fully engulfed in flames. The bar had been closed for the evening, so there were no witnesses to interview, and no one had been found nearby the vehicle, indicating that this likely wasn’t caused by a vehicle malfunction. Despite the car being completely destroyed by the fire, it didn’t take too long for police to identify who the vehicle belonged to.
The vehicle belonged to a local 17-year-old who had been reported missing the prior evening. That 17-year-old was Jenna
Simons, more commonly referred to as Jenna Nannetti. Just four months prior, in June, Nannetti had amicably emancipated from her grandmother Linda Nannetti, who had raised her, and whom she’d lived with. She married 20-year-old Michael Simons, who then moved into her grandmother’s home with her. As a wedding gift, Linda had bought the couple the previously mentioned Mustang.
On October 19th, Jenna’s body was discovered by a fisherman. Sources vary as to whether she had been found in the bushes on Lower Jones Island, which is situated in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, or on a levee in Holt, near Stockton. They’re both close to one another, but I felt the differing accounts were important to note. Jenna had been shot twice in the chest at a range of one to three feet. The shell was found with her body, and was identified as being shot from a Remington shotgun. This same shotgun was found near an Oakland estuary. For those of you that didn’t major in wordsmithing, an estuary is the tidal mouth of a large river, or where the tide meets the stream.
With the discovery of a body, investigations grew more intense. After an initial investigation by police, Michael Simons was found not to be a suspect, and a $5,000 reward was offered in exchange for any information leading to an arrest. From there, the case seemed to go cold.
That is, until February 28th, 2003, when two people were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. (Some sources say March, but given that the 28th is the last day of February 3 out of 4 years, I think it’s safe to believe the 28th is the correct date.) Katherine Belflower and Jeffrey Hamilton of Livermore had attempted to strangle 16-year-old Aspen Lum with a rope. And it’s about to get a little complicated here, so bear with me.
The two had apparently gotten the girl drunk and drove her to a remote road near Lake Del Valle in Livermore. After parking, they put on surgical gloves and got her out of the vehicle. Hamilton then began to give Lum a back rub… with surgical gloves on??? My red flags are going up all over the place. That’s weird. I once had a friend try to give me a back rub without surgical gloves, and I’ll tell you whut, I was NOT having it. It’s fucking weird, okay? Not victim-blaming at all here, either. You don’t know what you don’t know, and at 16, I did a lot of stupid shit with people I shouldn’t have and quite frankly, I’m probably really lucky to be alive.
It was at this point that Hamilton began to strangle her. Their plan was to make it look like a suicide, which has issues in and of itself-- like an obvious struggle that would have been evident from ligature marks, fingertip wounds from trying to pull at the rope, and possibly skin from the attackers under her nails. But the biggest issue, perhaps, was that this road was part of a routine patrol route, and as Lum began losing consciousness, the fates intervened. East Bay Regional Park District Police Officer Tim Philipps was on patrol.
Fortunately, Lum recovered, and both of her attackers remained in custody. After their arrest, Belflower and Hamilton decided 1 charge for attempted murder wasn’t enough. Maybe they were afraid they wouldn’t seem bad enough to their cellmates. Honestly, I don’t know what possessed them to confess to another crime, but they did. Thankfully. --I wonder if there are spirits of unsolved murder victims that just hang around interrogation rooms waiting for a guilty person to possess. Maybe they’re what possessed them. I don’t know. But it is fun to think about.
Anyways, Katherine Belflower and Jeffrey Hamilton confessed to their involvement in the murder of Jenna Nannetti. So who are these people and why are they murdering random teenagers?
I’m sure with the picture that’s been painted, you’re probably thinking that we almost had another Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo situation on our hands had they not been caught. Well, from first glance, I would agree with you. But surprisingly, that’s not the case.
If the victims aren’t random, what do these 2 cases have in common? Or better question… who? Obviously Belflower and Hamilton, but what was the real motive? During interrogation, Hamilton gave police a pretty solid answer. He told police that Michael Simons had killed Jenna Nannetti with their assistance. This came as somewhat of a shock to police, considering they had previously cleared him from their suspect list, and even offered that $5,000 reward to anyone with information that led to an arrest.
So what exactly transpired between the couple? Last you heard, the two had just moved in together in June. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quick to sour on relationships myself. Luke is seriously the stand-out here. But that seems extremely fast to go from 0 to 1 million.
And fast it was. Within just one month, the couple began having issues. And these weren’t “why is your wet towel on the bed,” kind of issues. The issues the couple faced were far more severe. Simons had decided he no longer wished to be with Jenna, and wanted a divorce. He even moved out. This of course didn’t sit well with Jenna. She had only just promised forever, and intended to follow through on it. Upon telling Simons that she didn’t want a divorce, he became verbally abusive. He even went so far as to threaten to kill her.
Unfortunately, Jenna didn’t believe him. On October 6, 2002, just one day before the car was found, Michael Simons called Jenna in the evening. He supposedly wished to meet to discuss their impending divorce. This is what she told her relatives when she left home that night. According to many articles, and reenactments of this case, Simons was painted as a charming, manipulative young man-- monster-- who was able to convince women to do his bidding. According to an article on patch.com written by Susan Young, a neighbor in Livermore, this was far from accurate.
Her own memories, as well as those of people she’d spoken with about Simons lean more towards him being an outcast than someone charming. Many described him as the (direct quote here) “sneaky kid who never quite fit in, and took pleasure in trying to make others look bad.” Despite his off-putting personality, no one would have ever suspected him of being capable of murder. --Of course, I think literally anyone is capable of doing something absolutely horrible if the circumstances are right. And I think it’s weird when people say they would have never seen it coming. But then, I do have a true crime podcast, and enough nightmares to last three lifetimes because of it. So, who knows.
Many speculate that had Simons not met Belflower, Jenna Nannetti may have been alive today. According to an article in SFGate, Belflower was a friend of the couple, and Hamilton was a friend of Belflower and Simons. The three of them together created what would turn out to be a terrifying trio.
Upon his separation from Jenna, Simons moved in with Belflower and immediately began a sexual and romantic relationship. Whether or not this began prior to their split was a little muddled from what I read, and to me, it seems a lot like a case of putting one foot in another boat before abandoning ship. Regardless, not the kind of person you want hanging around your relationship. It never ends well. Take it from my mom, she got to learn that lesson the hard way. It’s always the family friend. Or the nanny. Or in my mom’s case, both. From here, everything began to go downhill fast.
Despite him moving in with another woman, Jenna continued to call the home, insisting on reconciliation. This didn’t sit well with either Belflower or Simons. In September of 2002, Simons stated that he wanted to kill Jenna. This topic of conversation came up more and more frequently, and soon it was no longer just a passing fancy, but something he was planning.
Now, a one-sided desire for divorce is likely infuriating, I’m sure. But is it really enough of a reason for not only one person, but three people to commit a murder? In this case, not quite. Prior to Jenna’s marriage, her grandmother Linda had taken out either a $50,000 or $100,000 life insurance policy on Jenna. There were mixed accounts on the total. I understand nothing of life insurance other than that it’s a great motive for murder, but according to my research this was done as a way to ensure that Linda could provide a college education for Jenna. I honestly don’t know how that works. No one ever taught me how to adult. I was educated in America, okay?
Simons somehow found out about this life insurance policy. It’s possible Jenna mentioned it in passing, after all, she clearly couldn’t have imagined what he ended up planning. Foolishly, Simons assumed he would be the sole beneficiary of the life insurance policy. Why would he make that assumption after only one month of marriage? No one can be too sure. Teens are dumb. This is why we typically don’t let them get married.
And that’s no shade on her grandparents. They were genuinely just trying to do what was best for their grandkid, and knew that if they didn’t sign off on it, she’d find another way around them. It’s kind of like the whole “you can drink under my roof since I know you’re going to do it anyways, and I’d rather you be safe,” situation… just a little more extreme.
So, now we have a serious motive. This idiot thinks that he’s the beneficiary of a potentially $100,000 life insurance policy. As it turns out, Simons planned to use this money to buy a new home for him and Belflower. I wanted to make fun of them for thinking they could purchase a home for that price, but according to Zillow, I guess back in 2002 you could have. It likely would’ve been a severely outdated manufactured home, but… still a home. So, I guess parts of California used to be maybe somewhat affordable.
Anyways… so that explains why those two would commit murder… but what’s Hamilton’s story? From that explanation, it’s confusing to see what he might have to gain from it. Well, as it would turn out, Hamilton was requested to, essentially, play chauffeur to their murder, as neither of the two had a car. Not that this makes him any less guilty in this crime, let’s be clear on that right now. At literally any point, he could have turned these two monsters in, and Jenna would be alive today. But no, this janky freshwater bitch fish didn’t do that, did he? Instead, he decided that free rent in the home of these two psychopaths was worth assisting in the murder of a teenage girl. It all turned out to be for nothing though, because Simon’s name wasn’t ever on the life insurance policy to begin with.
Nope. The sole beneficiary of the life insurance policy was Jenna Nannetti’s grandmother, Linda.
During trial, the details of Nannetti’s murder came to light. When Nannetti arrived at Belflower’s home hoping to reconcile with Simons, Belflower and Hamilton spent time together in the living room while Simons and Nannetti cozied up on the porch. The two were play-wrestling like old times, which then led to making out when, as planned, Belflower came out quietly from the home and hit Jenna over the head with a baseball bat. This was meant to knock her out, but instead it left her confused, and angry. The trio recovered from this hitch in their plan though, and Hamilton and Belflower left to the secondary location.
Meanwhile, Jenna tried to talk Simons into taking her to the hospital, but he had other plans. He convinced the injured and bleeding Jenna to go with him to part of the Delta that locals refer to as Whiskey Slough. He assured her that Belflower would be there, and they could get their revenge. It took some persuading, but Jenna eventually agreed to go there instead of the hospital. Vengeance was far more important than her busted open skull.
On the way, she called her father, and got his answering machine. On the message, Jenna could be heard saying “Dad, give me a call. Dad, call me now. I got hit upside the head with a fucking baseball bat. I need your help now.” I just have to pause for a second to talk about how DEVASTATING that must have been for him to hear after they realized she was missing. I couldn’t imagine if one of my sisters called me with that and I missed their call. I don’t advocate for suicide, but I might have drank myself to death, honestly. My heart just breaks for him. And her entire family.
Shortly after the phone call was made, the couple arrived at their destination, which was essentially a levee road. It was there that Nannetti was shot by Simons with a Remington shotgun that had been stolen from a neighbors car by Belflower two whole months prior to the shooting. I’m not going to do direct quotes here because I’ll cry, but the trio said Jenna went down begging Michael to spare her life, and that even then she still loved him. Hamilton was probably the most shaken by her murder, and when she let out her final breath, he jumped in shock. The other two laughed at him. And this isn’t me making Hamilton out to be a good guy. He’s absolute garbage through and through. This is simply me making it very obvious how cold, and absolutely vile Simons and Belflower are.
From there, they scoured the area for shotgun shells, dropped Nannetti’s body where it was eventually found, ditched the gun, then dropped the car in the parking lot of the Mountain House Bar. They chose this location because Nannetti had been to it many times prior, and was actually well known there. It would do well at throwing police off of their trail. It was then set on fire to destroy any evidence of Simons having been present, then Hamilton drove Belflower and Simons back to livermore. As they drove off, Hamilton realized that his car had a flat tire, and actually borrowed a jack from a homeowner nearby.
This coincidence hadn’t been mentioned by the homeowner to the police. If it had been, maybe Aspen would have been spared some trauma. It just goes to show you that sometimes the coincidences you don’t think mean anything, can mean absolutely everything.
A week or two after the murder, Simons and Belflower borrowed Hamilton’s car under the guise of going off to “make out.” Hamilton later discovered that the couple had actually had very different intentions that day. Instead of finding a secluded spot to get intimate, they actually had gone to retrieve the shotgun. They then took the shotgun to a pier in Oakland, tied it to a bag of rocks, and threw it in the water.
Upon Simon’s interview, he stated that it was Hamilton who shot Jenna, and that he was sitting in her car at the time of the shooting. I personally find that super unlikely, but that’s me. Simons did not end up testifying at the trial.
Had Belflower and Hamilton not been caught attempting to murder Aspen Lum, it’s very likely that the case would still be unsolved to this day. So why did they go after Aspen? There obviously wouldn’t have been a life insurance policy in this situation, so it’s understandable if you’re struggling to understand the motive here. Unsurprisingly, there’s another piece to this very obnoxious puzzle.
If you’ll recall, the attack on Aspen took place on February 28th, 2003. That’s just 4 short months after the murder of Jenna. During this murder plot, Belflower and Simons were in a relationship. Belflower had actually become pregnant with Simons’ child. Now, Simons did what Simons did best, and moved on.
He began a relationship with Aspen Lum that February. Now the pieces are starting to click together, aren’t they? Belflower had already killed, or helped kill, once before. A second time should be no problem, right? She would do absolutely anything to have her forever after with Michael Simons, and no one would get in her way. As Hamilton strangled her, she could hear Belflower say something along the lines of “I killed Jenna, and now I’m going to kill you.”
Which, can we just point out how ridiculous that is? Let’s be honest here KATHERINE, you couldn’t even successfully knock her out. Your actual involvement in the plan was probably the LEAST successful, and you want to get all big for your britches about how YOU’RE killing her even as Hamilton does the leg work?
Not that I’m saying murder is something to BRAG about, but if you’re going to, let’s at least brag about the things we ACTUALLY contributed, right? I don’t know. Just seems a little extra gross to me. Katherine, you’re gross. You’re like the equivalent of the kids in group projects that do absolutely nothing but still take credit for the A. Only I like those kids even better. Fun fact, I DESPISE those kids. Anyway, Katherine, you’re the human version of a headache, and I hate all of it.
Katherine Belflower pled guilty to multiple charges, including first degree murder, and was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison. Why was she not given life without parole, you may ask? I know I certainly did!
Well, Belflower’s attorney argued that she suffered from depression and mental illness. She also wasn’t yet 18 at the time of the murder, and she was not the one to pull the trigger. Literally none of that matters to me. Not only was she part of the planning, but she attempted to knock the girl unconscious to assist in the murder. She then provided an alibi for Michael Simons for months after the fact, and never once attempted to give answers to Nannetti’s grieving family. THEN she went out and tried to murder a SECOND teenage girl. I’ve mentioned on several occasions that mental illness does NOT make a murderer, and that someone with mental health issues are more likely to be a productive member of society than they are a murderer, but I’m going to hammer that in every single time because it’s stigmatized enough. No leeway should be given just because someone suffers from depression. Sorry not sorry, you did the damn crime, and were SO unrepentant you tried to commit a second one. This monster should be in prison for life. 25 years is NOT enough.
Hamilton pled no contest to second-degree murder in exchange for a deal, for 15-years-to-life, that required him to testify against Simons. Hamilton pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Aspen Lum, and was served a seven-year sentence to be served concurrently with his 15-years-to-life sentence for Nannetti’s murder. It was not believed he will ever be paroled.
I was unable to find if Belflower faced any additional charges for the attempted murder of Aspen Lum. With Hamilton’s testimony against him, Simons was convicted of murder, and arson for burning the Mustang. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years.
Not so unbelievably, Simons and his legal team have tried to remove even more of his accountability in the crime using all sorts of legal maneuvers. First, they tried to get his interrogation tape removed from evidence due to him having only nodded his understanding of his Miranda Rights, and a lack of verbal consent. Then, they tried to remove his culpability in the arson charge due to California Community Property Laws. Under these laws, they tried to press the argument that because Simons had already murdered Nannetti prior to burning the car, it would have legally belonged to him at that point, and therefore would not have been arson.
Not only is this the BIGGEST fuck you to victims everywhere, but I honestly hope the judge LAUGHED them out of chambers because what the actual fuck? Some people should honestly use a glue stick instead of a chapstick, and this lawyer and Simons are two of those people. Acting presiding Justice Richard Sims ruled against these, frankly ridiculous, arguments citing laws that preclude a person from benefiting from killing another person. More specifically, the law applies to a person benefiting from murdering another that is a co-owner of property. Basically, the literal definition of crime does not pay.
Belflower gave birth to Simons’ child in prison, and the child was placed for adoption.
Victim impact statements were made at Belflower’s trial. Nannetti’s sister, 23-year-old Christina Huckins stood, wearing a shirt with Jenna’s face on it. Facing Belflower, she said “I can never give my children their auntie. I’m sick to think my children will grow up in a world where people can plan such a sickening crime. Go home and hug the person you love like it’s the last time you’ll see them, because there are people like this lurking around.”
Diane Jorgenson, Nannetti’s aunt, also prepared a statement that was read partially by her, and partially by prosecutor Robert Himelblau when she was too overwhelmed with emotion to continue. Her statement read, “We will always wonder why this hateful and horrendous crime happened. I pray the suffering has only begun for the convicted. May my niece rest in peace.” She also stated that “Michael was her first real love. We knew there would be trials, but we had no idea she was in danger.”
Jenna’s father passed away on April 4th, 2010, and Jenna’s mother Bobbie Nigro wrote on a memorial page for him on tributes.com, that when he passed, she lost perhaps the one person who could understand the pain of losing Jenna. I’m not going to repeat one of the horrible comments left on Jim’s tributes page, because it left me sobbing, but honestly, we’ve ALL missed an important call at one time or another, and I promise you no one felt worse about it than he did. Fuck you if you think that kind of comment is acceptable.
The judge that sentenced Belflower addressed Nannetti’s family and said, “This is a sad day for all of us, and your sadness is totally justified… The memories you have will someday mask over the sadness you have.” I genuinely hope that’s the case, and that they’ve found some semblance of peace. I also hope that the 3 of them rot in prison and never know a day of happiness going forward.
This has been the cursed tale of a strong-willed, loving