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Monday, Apr 21 2014 05:22 PM

Victims' family looking for closure at killer's May sentencing

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Stephen Michael Stewart is in court on April 30, 2012. Stewart, who was charged with murder in the shooting deaths of two bail bondsmen in April 2012, pleaded no contest Friday to two counts of voluntary manslaughter.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Vincent Sims sighed with relief when he heard that the accused killer of his two bail bondsmen sons had accepted a plea deal with a stipulated sentence of 38 years in prison.

The news meant that Sims and his family wouldn't have to sit through a trial and listen to the grisly details of the April 2012 killings.

"Well, you know, it's been two years and I really need some kind of closure to the deal," Sims said Monday.

Stephen Michael Stewart, 28, pleaded no contest Friday to two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Brandon and Zachary Sims. He had been charged with two counts of murder and had faced life without parole if convicted.

He's scheduled to be sentenced May 20.

Vincent Sims said he's not exactly happy with the deal, but he's accepting it because it's bringing closure. He said prosecutors told him Thursday about the offer they were prepared to make to Stewart.

Sims said Stewart had previously rejected an offer of 25 years to life.

Prosecutor Art Norris said he couldn't comment on specifics of the case until after sentencing, but said he had contacted the Sims family before making the deal because he wanted to get their feelings about it. Norris said that was an important factor not only to him, but also District Attorney Lisa Green, in making the deal.

Stewart's attorney, Thomas Alan Rogers, said he's deferring comment until sentencing.

Brandon Sims, 23, and Zachary Sims, 26, had gone to a residence in the 7800 block of Kamloops Drive on April 26, 2012, to apprehend Zachary Perrick for skipping bail, according to police reports. Perrick told investigators he heard a knock on the front door and started to open it, but Stewart, also in the house, began pushing it shut.

Brandon Sims kept the door from closing and entered the house. Stewart armed himself with a handgun and fired a round at Sims.

Perrick ran from the house and heard a volley of gunfire, the reports said. Investigators found the body of Zachary Sims in the house with a gunshot wound to the head, and Brandon Sims was found dead by a southeast corner of the home.

Stewart has asked to apologize to the Sims family at sentencing. Vincent Sims said he'll listen to Stewart's apology, but he's also going to tell him what he's done to him and his family.

"It's tough, a day-by-day thing...," Sims said.

He loved both sons, but he and Brandon Sims were especially close.

"When you lose two sons at the same time, and not to be giving one more credit than the other, but one wasn't only my son but was my best friend," Sims said.

They worked together, hung out and were basically inseparable.

"And it's gone," Vincent Sims said.

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