UCF student killed in robbery during visit to national forest, deputies say

Adam Simjee, 22, died while protecting his girlfriend, according to CBS affiliate

Adam Simjee, 22, was visiting the forest with his girlfriend, Mikayla Paulus, when they were flagged down by a woman on the side of the road, according to a GoFundMe set up by Simjee’s family. According to the University of Central Florida, Simjee was a student at the university since fall 2021 and was enrolled in classes for this fall semester.

CLAY COUNTY, Ala. – An Apopka man was killed Sunday during an attempted robbery at Talladega National Forest in Alabama, according to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

Adam Simjee, 22, was visiting the forest with his girlfriend, Mikayla Paulus, when they were flagged down by a woman on the side of the road, according to a GoFundMe set up by Simjee’s family. According to the University of Central Florida, Simjee was a student at the university since fall 2021 and was enrolled in classes for this fall semester.

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Deputies said the woman asked Simjee for help with a car and after Simjee offered to get help from the ranger station, the woman — later identified as Yasmine Hider — pulled a gun and made the couple walk back into the woods. When Hider lowered her guard, Simjee pulled out his own firearm and exchanged fire with her, suffering fatal injuries in the process, the GoFundMe says.

Clay County deputies said Simjee died at the scene, having been shot in the back. Deputies said Paulus was not injured in the shooting. Paulus was found performing CPR on Simjee when law enforcement arrived, according to the sheriff’s office.

In an interview, Paulus told CBS affiliate Andrea Lindenberg that Simjee died saving Paulus’ life.

Deputies added that Hider was found lying on the ground nearby, having suffered several gunshot wounds to her torso. She was airlifted to a hospital in Birmingham to undergo surgery for her injuries, reports show.

A second woman suspected in the attempted robbery fled the scene, and law enforcement investigated her whereabouts for several hours afterward, deputies said.

Deputies said they received information that the two women may have been part of a group of people “living off the grid” in the forest, and the group was reported to be “armed and potentially violent.”

Eventually, law enforcement officers said they located a camp roughly a half-mile away from the scene of the shooting, and the suspected woman — identified as Krystal Pinkins — was found standing near a tent.

While law enforcement ordered Pinkins to the ground, a 5-year-old child came out from the woods holding a loaded shotgun and ran over to Pinkins before putting the shotgun down, deputies said. Investigators said the child was later identified as Pinkins’ son.

The sheriff’s office said in a statement that the boy was taken into custody by the Department of Human Resources.

Pinkins was arrested and faces charges for endangering the welfare of a child, murder, kidnapping and robbery. She is being held at the Clay County Detention Center under bond.

Deputies said Hider is currently recovering from surgeries at a Birmingham hospital, though deputies have obtained warrants against Hider for charges of murder, kidnapping and robbery.

“The outpouring of support from everyone in Alabama has really made all the difference in dealing with this tragedy,” Paulus told Lindenberg. “He was the best man I could have ever imagined, and he left a positive impact on every single person he met.”

Lindenberg said Paulus told her Simjee was a “proud 2nd Amendment supporter” and that this situation “is exactly why he supported the right to own a gun.”

“No doubt, the world is dimmer without him,” Lindenberg wrote in a Facebook post. “And we here in Alabama are left to wonder if there are any safe places left... apparently outside of a fortified home, there are not too many.”

Lindenberg added that Simjee’s cousin, Balal, said his family hasn’t yet told Simjee’s 95-year-old grandmother over fears she may “die of a broken heart.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Simjee’s family gather necessary funds to cover funeral and burial costs. To donate to their fundraiser, click here.

News 6 spoke with Paulus’ father, Matt, who said his daughter’s boyfriend spent the last moments of his life protecting her. He is calling Simjee a hero.

“I don’t know if my daughter would be here today but I’m very thankful that she is,” Matt Paulus said.

Matt Paulus said the couple met and started dating while they were both in high school in Central Florida.

“They had instant chemistry. They did everything together,” said Matt Paulus. “She loves to travel, and she would go anywhere she could with him. They loved to go see places and do new things.”

Matt Paulus said their trip to Cheaha Mountain was one of the stops on what was supposed to be their last vacation of the summer before starting the fall semester at UCF. Simjee was studying finance there. The couple planned to build their lives together. Now, loved ones are planning Simjee’s funeral.

“He was a quiet type, but he meant what he said, and he did what he said,” Matt Paulus said. “He is definitely somebody you would be proud to call your son-in-law.”

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About the Author:

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.