SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — “Mr. Cummins will never see life outside a Tennessee state penitentiary.”
Those are the words from Sumner County judge, Dee David Gay after one of Tennessee’s most notorious mass murderers pleaded guilty on Wednesday. Michael Cummins will serve life without parole for the murders of 8 people, including the death of both of his parents and a 12-year-old girl.
“First-degree murder, this is your mother, are you guilty for first-degree murder of Clara Cummins?” Gay asked.
“Yes, sir,” Cummins responded.
It was the same response he had on all 12 counts after he admitted to killing eight people in Westmoreland, Tennessee in 2019. At the time, Cummins was out on probation.
“It’s one thing to lose someone in a natural occurrence, but it’s something totally different when you have to deal with someone as heinous as this,” said Steve McGlothlin, a relative of three of the victims.
In this case, three separate homicide scenes point back to Cummins. In April 2019, six family members were found brutally murdered inside a home. Cummins’s grandmother was the only survivor.
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“Judge, every one of these victims were killed in the same manner, blunt force trauma to the head,” said Ray Whitley, Sumner County District Attorney General.
Whitley said investigators believe he used a hatchet and bats.
Evidence concluded that Cummins also killed 69-year-old retired nurse, Shirley Fehrle, inside her home. He was later spotted driving her car. “It’s clear judge that he killed Ms. Fehrle to gain access into that automobile,” Whitley said.
Cummins also pleaded guilty to killing James Dunn, who was found decapitated outside his burned-down cabin home.
“In this life, I will never walk in the woods with my uncle again…In the meantime, I hold to the hope I will walk with again in a different life,” said Connor Dunn, nephew of James Dunn.
Dunn’s nephew and only brother both spoke in the courtroom. After four long years, and the death penalty taken off the table, Wednesday served as some sense of closure.
“We’ve served the victims, we’ve served the public and we’ve served justice, so I feel good about what we’ve done,” Whitley said.
Whitley told reports that the death penalty was taken off the table after new evidence of a mental disability was brought into consideration in April. He said the new evidence would have only prolonged the trial.