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Case of Tennessee man accused of killing 8 with grand jury

May 29, 2019
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Michael Cummins is wheeled out of a courtroom after a preliminary hearing Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Gallatin, Tenn. Cummins faces multiple counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of eight people in a nearby rural community in April. Cummins was shot while being captured. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

GALLATIN, Tenn. (AP) — A 12-year-old girl who is among the eight people a Tennessee man is charged with killing was found partially undressed and lying on top of a serrated knife, baseball bat and part of a broken rifle, authorities said in court Wednesday.

Sumner County District Attorney General Ray Whitley and law enforcement officials revealed the details about 12-year-old Sapphire McGlothlin-Pee before a judge sent 25-year-old Michael Cummins’ case to a grand jury. Sapphire was discovered last month in the living room of a trailer home underneath a loveseat, with one foot sticking out, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation forensic scientist Miranda Gaddes testified.

Authorities also testified that Sapphire was stabbed, but Whitley said there’s no evidence so far that she was sexually assaulted. He said that is still being investigated.

Along with Sapphire’s body, those of Cummins’ parents, 51-year-old David Carl Cummins and 44-year-old Clara Jane Cummins; and Sapphire’s mother, 43-year-old Rachel Dawn McGlothlin-Pee, and her grandmother, 64-year-old Marsha Elizabeth Nuckols, were found in the trailer in the rural Westmoreland area. Affidavits say those six victims and the two others — a man whose body was found in the woods and a woman whose body was found in a house — died from blunt-force head injuries.

The graphic testimony of how Sapphire was found drew an outburst in court from her uncle, Steve McGlothlin. He was kicked out of court by deputies. McGlothlin told reporters the killings left him the only living member of his immediate family.

Wednesday marked McGlothlin’s first glimpse of Cummins, who sat in a wheelchair with a cast on his leg from the bullet wound he received when authorities found him after a brief manhunt. Cummins, who has a long criminal record with multiple instances of court-ordered mental health evaluations, bobbed his head back and forth throughout the hearing.

“Personally, I don’t feel the man deserves to draw another breath on this earth,” McGlothlin said of Cummins. “So, the moment they wheeled him in that room, I had wished for him to die.”

According to an affidavit, on April 17 — 10 days before the discovery of the bodies in the trailer — an officer found Jim Dunn’s headless body about 75 yards (69 meters) away from a burned cabin, with his head about 25 yards (23 meters) away from his body. Sumner County Sheriff’s Office Detective Lance Hampton said he believes the body had been there for three or four days. He said he thinks animals detached Dunn’s head from his body.

Cummins was later seen with a rifle that looked like one of Dunn’s that had gone missing, and on April 27, authorities discovered Dunn’s missing rifle at the trailer where the six victims were found, the affidavit says.

Part of the broken rifle was found under Sapphire and the other segment was discovered near the body of Cummins’ mother, Gaddes said.

Another victim, 69-year-old Shirley B. Fehrle, was found dead in a separate home and has no known relationship to Cummins, authorities have said. Prosecutors believe Cummins stole a car belonging to Fehrle and abandoned it in a creekbed. Another person was injured at the first trailer but survived.

Prosecutors said shoeprints found at the trailer and where Fehrle was killed also tied the scenes together.

Cummins had been on probation after serving just 16 months of a 10-year sentence for attempting to burn down a neighbor’s house in September 2017 and assaulting her when she tried to put out the fire. He was released on probation in January, but his probation officer had been preparing an arrest warrant for probation violations, Whitley has said. Cummins violated a no-contact order with the neighbor and failed to get a required mental health evaluation, a previous affidavit says.

Sumner County Criminal Court Judge Dee David Gay on Wednesday ordered Cummins to serve out the rest of the 10-year sentence. That judge said Cummins had also violated his probation by running into the woods when officers were making a probation-related home visit on April 10 and he failed to report to the probation office two days later as ordered.

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