A Tennessee man accused of beating seven people to death, including his parents, uncle and a 12-year-old girl, now stands accused in an eighth slaying -- that of a headless man found near a burned-out cabin in the woods last month.
The body of James Fox Dunn Jr., 63, was found April 17 near his cabin, located in the 1200 block of Ransom Mandrell Road in Westmoreland, according to The Tennessean. His head was found nearby.
Sumner County District Attorney Ray Whitley told The Tennessean it was unclear if Dunn, who, according to his obituary, grew up in the Nashville area, had been decapitated as part of the slaying or if his remains were scattered by wildlife. An arrest affidavit obtained by the newspaper Monday said Dunn’s body was found about 75 yards from the burned cabin and his head was found about 25 yards from the rest of his body.
Like Michael Lee Cummins’ other alleged victims, Dunn died of blunt-force trauma, The Tennessean reported. The trauma was to Dunn’s head, his autopsy showed.
Dunn “loved animals and the outdoors, which is where he felt most at home,” his obituary said.
Neighbor Adam Stafford told WSMV in Nashville that Dunn, who went by Jim, typically stayed to himself.
“Real nice guy, never bothered anybody,” Stafford told the news station.
Dunn’s killing was linked to Cummins, 25, of Westmoreland, after a 30-30 rifle registered to Dunn -- and said to be missing from his home -- was found at the scene of the mass murder 10 days later, the affidavit said. That crime has been described as the worst mass killing in recent Tennessee history.
Sumner County Sheriff’s Office Detective Lance Hampton wrote in the affidavit that Cummins was seen carrying other reportedly stolen property from the wooded area behind Dunn’s land. One of those items included a rifle matching the description of the 30-30 taken from Dunn.
“Michael Cummins also made statements that he had stolen property from the ‘chicken man,” who was identified as Dunn, Hampton wrote.
The other victims, who were found slain April 27 at a mobile home on Charles Brown Road in Westmoreland, were identified as David Carl Cummins, 51, the suspect’s father; Clara Jane Cummins, 44, the suspect’s mother; Charles Edward Hosale, 45, the suspect’s uncle; Rachel Dawn McGlothlin-Pee, 43, Hosale’s girlfriend; Sapphire McGlothlin-Pee, 12, Rachel McGlothlin-Pee’s daughter; and Marsha Elizabeth Nuckols, 64, Rachel McGlothlin-Pee’s mother.
Shirley B. Fehrle, 69, was found dead that same day in her own home at 1555 Luby Brown Road. A Kia registered to Fehrle was later found abandoned, and Michael Cummins is suspected of having stolen the vehicle a few days before Fehrle was slain, authorities said.
The seven initial victims attributed to Cummins were believed to have been killed over a span of several days, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officials said earlier this month.
Another member of Cummins’ family was left in critical condition after the massacre at the family’s home. Though investigators have not publicly identified her, her family identified her to NewsChannel 5 as Michael Cummins’ grandmother, Mary Sue Hosale.
Mary Hosale remained hospitalized last week in critical condition. Her current condition was not immediately available Monday.
NewsChannel 5 reported that court documents allege Cummins borrowed a pair of women’s shoes from a cousin the day before the bodies of his family members were found. He is accused of wearing those shoes to his uncle’s home, where six of the slayings took place.
Authorities said shoe patterns found in blood at the scene appear to match the borrowed shoes, the news station said.
Cummins was formally charged with the April 27 killings Friday upon his release from a hospital, where he was recovering from being shot by police during his capture the weekend of the homicides. Cummins was found hiding in a creek bed about a mile from where his family and the other victims were slain, authorities said.
Cummins is charged with six counts of first-degree murder in the mass killing, one count of criminal homicide in Fehrle’s slaying, one count of attempted first-degree murder in his grandmother’s beating and one count of theft, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced Friday. Cummins was booked into the Sumner County Jail’s special needs unit, where he is being held without bond on probation violations.
Cummins has been charged with a seventh count of first-degree murder in Dunn’s death, The Tennessean reported. His relationship to Dunn is unclear.
David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said during an April 29 news conference that the “gruesome” mass killing was one of the worst he’d ever seen. He said the crime has shocked the small, close-knit community of about 2,200 people where the victims lived.
“Coming from an agency where we work some pretty horrific scenes … it is certainly one of the most difficult and horrific ones in recent times, and certainly at a level that is unprecedented,” Rausch said.
Sumner County Sheriff Sonny Weatherford, who has been in office for nearly 40 years, expressed similar sentiments.
“This is one of the worst things I’ve ever been involved with in Sumner County,” Weatherford said. “I’ve never seen anything that would even come close to this.”
Cummins was on the verge of being arrested on a probation violation when the killings were discovered. His probation officer drew up an arrest warrant April 26 after Cummins failed to undergo a mental health evaluation related to a 2017 arson-related conviction, NewsChannel 5 reported.
The Tennessean reported that court documents filed April 29 in the case allege Cummins was spotted wearing a bloodstained shirt over the weekend of the killings. Acquaintances told investigators Cummins said he was “saving a bullet for himself.”
‘He’s an animal’
Weatherford told reporters that Cummins was most recently released from jail on Jan. 19. The sheriff declined to go into detail of the prior conviction, but court records obtained by The Tennessean paint a picture of Cummins’ criminal history.
His most recent arrest stemmed from a Sept. 13, 2017, arson at his next-door neighbor’s home. Court documents indicate that he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for setting the fire but was placed on 10 years of probation as part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated arson and aggravated assault.
The probation was allowed, despite some haunting words Cummins exchanged with a deputy as he was arrested.
“If I get out of jail, I’ll go there and do it again,” Cummins told the deputy, according to the arrest warrant obtained by the newspaper. “When I get out, I’ll finish the job.”
The victim in that case, Pam Sanabria, told The Tennessean a visit to her daughter in Kentucky over the weekend of the killings is likely the only reason she wasn’t among Cummins’ alleged victims.
“I wasn’t here, and that’s probably why I stayed alive,” a tearful Sanabria told the newspaper.
Sanabria, from whom Cummins was ordered to stay away as part of his sentence in the 2017 case, told The Tennessean that he never stuck to that order after he was released. Sumner County deputies told her to record any interaction with Cummins so she would have proof to have his probation revoked.
Sanabria said she drove up to her home on Charles Brown Road Saturday and heard a “commotion” from next door. She took her cellphone and began recording.
Instead of an interaction with Cummins, she recorded the horror of Cummins’ aunt and her boyfriend discovering the first four victims of the mass slayings. The fifth and sixth victims were found the following day as crime scene investigators processed the home, authorities said.
“There was no reason this should have happened,” Sanabria said of the homicides. “It’s just horrible.”
The arson case was not the first time a mental evaluation was ordered for Cummins. In 2012, an evaluation was ordered after he was found in a parking lot with a 17-year-old girl who had a protective order against him.
According to The Tennessean, he was arrested the following August after his aunt called deputies and told them he was “destroying the house and throwing things at her.” Cummins told investigators he became angry because he felt his aunt had accused him of stealing cash.
He “blacked out” in anger and began trashing the home, the court records show. His aunt told deputies she feared for her safety.
In February 2017, Cummins was charged with stealing a turkey and a camera from a neighbor’s home. He pleaded guilty, was placed on supervised probation and was ordered to complete mental health treatment, The Tennessean reported.
That May, he was charged with domestic assault and robbery for going to his mother’s home -- where he was no longer allowed -- and forcibly stealing her purse and medication, the newspaper said. He later pleaded guilty to the domestic assault charge.
That was his last arrest before he set Sanabria’s home on fire four months later. Luckily, Sanabria smelled smoke and went outside to find her home in flames.
The arrest warrant shows he pushed her to the ground and started pulling her hair when she attempted to douse the blaze, The Tennessean reported.
Sanabria told the newspaper her problems with Cummins began shortly after she moved in back in 2005, when she said he began stealing from her to feed a drug habit. When she installed new locks on her door, he broke out all her windows.
Two days before the arson, he stood outside in the rain and threatened to kill her, Sanabria told the paper.
Watch Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Sumner County officials speak about the Westmoreland mass killings below.
The distraught neighbor said Cummins would sometimes walk the neighborhood with a machete or other large knife. Neighbors reported seeing him walking around with a rifle a few days before the bodies of his family members were found, Sanabria said.
It was unknown if the rifle they saw him with was the one reported stolen from Dunn.
“You don’t know how many fights I’ve seen,” Sanabria told The Tennessean. “That was normal for me. That whole place was nothing but chaos.”
Sanabria said David and Clara Cummins were “pretty good country people,” but they could not control their son’s behavior.
“He’s an animal,” she told the newspaper. “A nightmare, and I told them both he would kill them one day when he did what he did to me.”
A Cummins family member told NewsChannel 5 that Michael Cummins, who reportedly had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression, would often talk of hurting himself or others.
“I guess we wanted to numb out of our minds that he wouldn’t,” one of the people who found the bodies, Timothy Meadows, told the news station. “We wanted to believe that he loves his family enough that he wouldn’t do that.”
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