following the hearing Wednesday. “I’ve never seen a case personally… where we have this many victims and every one of them are brutally murdered.”
All of the victims died from blunt force injuries, according to Dr. Feng Li, chief medical examiner for Davidson County.
Investigators believe Cummins is also responsible for killing 63-year-old James “Jim” Dunn Jr., who was found dead approximately 75 yards from his burned cabin on April 17. His death is estimated to have occurred three to four days earlier.
Cummins was eventually taken into custody on April 27 following a manhunt, which ended when he was shot once in his lower right leg by a member of law enforcement, according to testimony from TBI Special Agent Andrew Graves, who heard somewhere between 10 and 30 shots fired.
Whitley argued in court Wednesday that the discovery of a stolen rifle belonging to Dunn at the crime scene on Charles Brown Road along with bloody shoe prints from shoes Cummins had admitted to previously wearing and the location of Fehrle’s stolen Kia in the area where he was eventually taken into custody was all evidence linking the 25-year-old to the murders.
However, Cummins’ attorney Paul Bruno disagreed.
“I do not recall hearing any other evidence with regard to a connection between Mr. Cummins and the homicides other than the shoeprint,” Bruno said in court. “There might be evidence of theft… (but) I haven’t heard any evidence that connects Mr. Cummins to the rifle in the residence.”
Family member: Murder details ‘hard to take’
The preliminary hearing was briefly interrupted when Steve McGlothlin, whose mother, sister and niece were among the victims, stood up and shouted during testimony related to the 12-year-old’s murder.
“It was a little hard to take,” McGlothlin said after being escorted out of the courtroom. “It’s bad enough the description of everything else, but with that, I just couldn’t keep quiet no longer.
“Hopefully they make an example out of him.”
Following the hearing, Whitley told members of the media that he has not yet made a decision on whether to seek the death penalty in the case, but added it is “something we will have to consider very seriously because of the facts and circumstances” surrounding the murders.
The worst homicide event in Tennessee in at least two decades took place just three months after Cummins was released from jail and placed on probation following attempted aggravated arson and aggravated assault convictions last year.
According to a Tennessee Department of Corrections spokesperson, Cummins had stayed in regular contact with his probation officer prior to missing a scheduled check-in on April 12. A probation officer had also been unsuccessful in locating him at his home two days earlier.
“I feel like Sumner County dropped the ball,” McGlothlin said. “This man shouldn’t have been out. He has had an extensive record. They know he’s violent. They knew all of this.”
During a probation violation hearing held in Sumner County Criminal Court earlier Wednesday, Cummins admitted he failed to get a required mental health evaluation following his release from jail in January.
As a result, Judge Dee David Gay ordered him back to prison to serve the remainder of his 10-year sentence at 30 percent.
Whitley defended the handling of Cummins’ case Wednesday, but said that “everybody has 20/20 hindsight right now.”
“If we had known he was going to do this nobody would have allowed him to be out, but all the facts were presented to the judge and we did not drop the ball,” Whitley said when asked if Cummins should ever have been released after a year and a half in jail. “We did what we should have done and it turned out bad. Sometimes it happens. You cannot predict human behavior explicitly 100 percent.”