A bizarre world exists in the deep woods of Alabama, and an innocent college couple sadly found tragedy during what was meant to be a fun hike.
The investigation of a Florida college student’s fatal shooting in Alabama’s Talladega National Forest during an attempted armed robbery led authorities to an “off-the-grid” encampment, where they were confronted by a 5-year-old with a loaded shotgun, officials said.
Adam Simjee, a 22-year-old University of Central Florida student, died of his injuries after suffering several gunshot wounds to the torso, according to a statement by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
His longtime girlfriend, 20-year-old Mikayla Paulus, who is also a student at the University of Central Florida, had been performing CPR on Simjee when authorities arrived.
“He had his whole life ahead of him with Mikayla,” loved one said on a GoFundMe campaign created to raise money for funeral costs.
Two women who were believed to be living in the series of tents set up in the area have been accused of his murder and the child, who is the son of one of the women, is now in the custody of social services, the Gasden Times reported.
Law enforcement’s unexpected discovery of the encampment came after Simjee and Mikayla had decided to embark on a last-minute hiking trip in the Talladega National Forest Sunday, authorities said. Paulus told al.com that the pair often enjoyed travelling together, and wanted to mark the end of their summer vacation with a trip to the national forest.
They were flagged down on the side of a road by a woman who said she needed help to get her car started, authorities said.
“Adam being the person he is, stopped to help them,” a loved one wrote. “He and Mikayla tried to help the woman and even reached out to family for tips to help get the car started. When nothing else could be done, they offered to get help from the ranger station.”
That’s when the woman, who police identified as Yasmine Hider, allegedly threatened them with a gun, and asked for their banking information, according to the GoFundMe. Hider held Simjee and Paulus at gunpoint as she told told them to walk into the woods, authorities said.
Simjee had also been carrying a concealed weapon and exchanged gunfire with Hider, authorities said. Hider was struck multiple times, and Simjee was fatally wounded. He died at the scene, according to the statement.
Paulus later wrote in a Facebook post that Simjee “made sure I knew I would be safe when I was with him.”
Paulus said that when gunfire erupted, she noticed a second woman, later identified as Krystal Pinkins, 36, run off, al.com reported. Authorities returned to the scene days later to search for Pinkins and they tracked her down to a location about a half-mile from where the shootout occurred, according to al.com.
Pinkins had been standing in front of a large group of tents set up in the forest, which Sheriff Jim Studdard described to al.com as a “base camp,” when authorities ordered her to the ground.
Shortly thereafter, a 5-year-old child emerged from the woods holding a loaded shot gun and did not put it down when authorities ordered him to drop the weapon, authorities said. The child ran toward his mother, and finally put the gun on the ground after reaching her, al.com reported.
Pinkins has been charged with one count of murder, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery. She is being held at the Clay County Detention Center, the Gadsen Times reported.
Hider remains in the hospital under observation of the sheriff’s department, and warrants have been obtained charging her with one count of murder, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery, according to the Gadsen Times.
A gag order was issued by District Judge David Law Wednesday that prevents anyone, including lawyers and witnesses, from speaking with media about the case.