Just a few months ago, Jason Dennis Simione wrote on his Facebook page: “I have never been happier.” He was married to a beautiful woman, president of a successful business, and the new father of a baby boy named Jett.
But that happiness crumbled when his wife, Megumi “May” Simione, told him in July she wanted a divorce.
Rather than give her up, Broward prosecutors say, Simione turned his home into a fortress rigged with bomb materials and filled with rifles, and tried to hire a hitman from El Salvador to kill his wife, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and his 9-month-old baby boy.
Simione, 39, was arrested Monday night, charged with three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. He was also charged with threatening to discharge a destructive device, and child abuse.
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“The court is concerned with his alleged willingness to hire a hitman to kill everyone in his family including his own child,” said Broward Circuit Court Judge John Hurley, in setting Simione’s bail at $5 million.
Simione’s massive gun and ammunition collection, was on display Tuesday in the Broward Sheriff’s Office evidence room: dozens of high-powered rifles, about a dozen handguns, stacks of ammo boxes containing more than 70,000 rounds; and a .50-caliber sniper rifle “that could put a hole through an engine block,” according to Det. Louie Rivera, who described it as a military weapon. “That’s not a gun you see every day.”
Sheriff Scott Israel said “personally this is the most weapons I have seen and certainly the most ammunition. You can’t help but think we may have averted a disaster.”
Susan Brown, Simione’s Plantation divorce lawyer, scoffs at that, saying it was Simione’s business to have guns and ammunition.
Simione is the president of Bulldog Tactical Equipment LLC, based in Dania Beach. Bulldog’s website says the company is “a leading supplier of tactical and assault equipment to government, military, and law enforcement organizations within the continental United States.’’
Its product list includes sniper accessories, weapon covers, rescue litters and “grenade/banger pouches.’’
“It sounds all dramatic, but that’s ridiculous,’’ Brown said. “That’s like a jeweler having jewelry in the house or a lawyer having law books.’’
Brown is not involved in the criminal case, but high-powered criminal defense attorney David Bogenschutz is. Bogenschutz only said he had talked to his client Tuesday evening at the jail.
According to the arrest warrant, Simione asked a Salvadoran employee of his company if he knew “people” from his native country, because of its violent gang activity, who could commit murder. He then offered the employee, who was not named, $150,000 to arrange the killings of his wife, her mother, Naoko Hitomi and brother, Kazhito Haga, and the couple’s baby, if he didn’t get custody of the child. He added that he didn’t care if the hit man raped his wife in the process, police said.
Just three weeks ago, the employee was approached again by Simione, who tagged each of his targets with code names to be used in further conversations about the contract killings, police said. He told the employee he was withdrawing cash in several denominations for payment.
In the meantime, Simione was accumulating bomb-making materials, including threaded galvanized pipe caps, nails, gunpowder, propane cylinder nails, wire and batteries. He asked the employee if he knew how to assemble a bomb like the ones made in El Salvador.
“When this is done and this explodes, it will f--- everyone up,” Simione said, according to police.
On Friday, May Simione met with BSO officials and said her husband had abused their child. She told them she was at her husband’s workplace and Simione was holding the child when he got into an altercation with an employee. During a “violent outburst,” Jason Simione threw the child onto a table, causing a contusion to the face and minor cut to the head. That night, she said, the Salvadoran employee told her of the plot to murder her and her family.
On Saturday, his wife filed a temporary injunction against Simione, telling police he was abusing steroids and it was making him paranoid, delusional and violent.
Ron Wood, Simione’s first cousin and a Fort Lauderdale photographer, said that lots of uncomplimentary things can be said about Simione — that he’s a loudmouthed bigot who fears the country is descending into anarchy — but that he laughs out loud at the allegation that Simione would harm his little boy.
“He adores his son,’’ said Wood, whose work adorns Simione’s three Facebook pages and the page of his wife, May.
May and Jason met in Hawaii and were married there two years ago. Wood photographed their wedding and more recently a series of tender pregnancy photos.
“They both loved each other,’’ Wood said. But May wanted to end the marriage, and take her husband’s money, he said.
His cousin, Wood added, “is easy to attack.’’
“He’s boisterous and loud,” Wood said. “He’s an open book and he has no filter … He’s insensitive about Hispanics and if they don’t speak English, he will make comments. He loves America.’’
But not America’s president.
According to the arrest warrant, Simione has frequently said President Barack Obama should be murdered because of his race.
Simione, police say, also used racial epithets toward employees.
Wood said that Simione never served in the military but got involved in government contracting when “he found out they needed something and he made it.”
He said he once warned his cousin that “you’re going to look like some freak’’ to anyone who saw his survival supplies and weapons at home.
Inside Simione’s home, at 4732 SW 35th Ave., there were “gun’s everywhere,” said BSO Det. Ricky Libman. There were loaded rifles by the front door and throughout the house.
He had fortified the bedroom closet walls with steel and used that room to store the ammunition and more guns. On the door, there was a silhouette of a person with two “X” marks, to point out vital organs, added Det. Rivera.
Ready for anything
Libman called Simione a “survivalist” who wanted to be prepared in case of a natural disaster or government collapse.
Simione grew up in South Florida, his cousin said. He worked for the Hollywood Fire-Rescue Department for 15 years, leaving in September 2010, according to the department. That was seven months after becoming engaged to May.
On Father’s Day, Simione posted a photo of himself on Facebook with his young son. “I have never been happier,” he wrote. Another photo of himself with his heavily tattooed arms around the boy: “Daddy loves his son soo much.”
After May left, Wood said, Simione got another tattoo inked on his arm — that of a woman beautiful on the outside but ugly on the inside.
In July, he posted his last Facebook message to friends and family:
“I should have known that I do not deserve happiness,” he wrote.
“My only hope is to pass my lessons to Jett so he can learn from my failures … For Me my son is the Air that I breathe and he is all that matters. I hope he can trust in me, his Loving Father Jason.”
Miami Herald researcher Monika Z. Leal and writer Howard Cohen contributed to this story.