Amanda Simpson, the sole survivor of a murder-suicide in Ponder May 16 that claimed her three children, says life three months later is an ongoing struggle and she relives the horror every day.
Nevertheless, she said she still wants to be a mother again.
Simpson, 29, is living with her sister in Chester, Virginia. She moved there shortly after her ex-husband, Justin Tyler Painter, 39, shot and killed their three young children and Simpson’s boyfriend, then himself, according to police.
“I have to put on a fake smile every day,” Simpson said in a video interview Friday. “It’s hard to keep going. I don’t know how to keep going but at the same time I know I have to until I see them again.”
She said she’s constantly reliving the morning Painter came to her home on Lone Star Park Lane in a quiet neighborhood in Ponder about 40 miles north of Fort Worth. He stood in the living room and shot their children, Odin, 8, Caydence, 6, and Drake, 4, and Simpson’s boyfriend, Seth Richardson, 29, killing them all.
Simpson suffered life-threatening injuries including broken ribs and a broken bone in her neck before Painter turned the gun on himself.
She was able to tell parts of what happened later the same day on Facebook Live from her hospital bed.
“I relive it every day. Every single day,” she said Friday.
She said she had turned down numerous interview requests from news outlets but agreed to speak to the Star-Telegram because “Texas is my home. A lot of people knew my babies.”
Simpson said she hadn’t wanted Painter to have access to a gun for some time because he had threatened to shoot himself.
“A year before this happened, I told him I was leaving him because I had been unhappy for years,” she said.
She said she hid his gun in her car.
After their divorce in March, Simpson said she had to give the gun back, but was told by Painter’s stepfather, Tom Trimble, that it would be kept from Painter.
“I was promised,” Simpson said, breaking down. “I was promised that this gun would be locked up and put away.”
Simpson said she later found that the gun had been returned to him.
Trimble, reached Friday by telephone, did not wish to comment.
Simpson said the suicide threat was the only time she ever felt Painter might be dangerous.
“There are answers I don’t have myself,” Simpson said. “Like, when was the gun returned to Justin’s possession? Was it that morning? That week?”
In the meantime, Simpson said she’s just trying to take care of herself.
“Every day I see those images, and sounds are starting to come back. I try not to remember anything from that morning because it was so traumatic, but when it’s the last vision you have of your children, it’s hard not to see it,” she said.
Simpson said she still occasionally finds herself terrified by loud noises.
Being around her family, seeing a therapist and looking for work helps her cope, she said. But the job situation is complicated, she said. She needs to find an employer who understands what she’s been through and is still living with.
“Because there are days when I just can’t handle it. I want to crawl into bed, I don’t want to get out of bed, I want to sleep, that’s all I want to do,” Simpson said.
“I still feel the same way that I felt when it happened. The pain is like a fresh wound. So I’m trying to work on that, I’m trying to get on some kind of medication that might help,” she said.
Simpson said the shooting has made her far more guarded than she once was.
“I’ve always been open towards people. I’ve never judged anybody. I’ve never really been scared of anybody,” she said. “I mean, I’m still the same person, I’m just shattered. I’m a lot more fragile than I used to be, emotionally. I have really big trust issues now, toward everybody, even my family.
“(Painter) has taken that from me, that I can’t trust anybody.”
Simpson said she knows she needs to heal to get the sort of life she wants back.
“Odin, Caydence and Drake all wanted a younger sibling,” Simpson said, trying not to cry.
“To me, that gives me permission to have another child. I’m not done being a mom. I am wired, I have always been wired to be a mom,” she said.
“I’m not done yet. I’m kind of terrified to find anybody or run into anybody who’s willing to take my so-called baggage and start a family,” Simpson said. “Right now, I’m just trying to get myself fixed, mentally and physically.”
Ponder police have not returned several phone calls asking whether the investigation into the killings has been resolved. The Texas Department of Public Safety did not immediately respond on Friday.