Accused mass murderer Michael Cummins to likely seek insanity plea

Posted at 3:02 PM, Jul 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 19:16:43-04

WESTMORELAND, Tenn. (WTVF) — He's considered among the most dangerous in the max security unit. Michael Cummins is accused of one of the deadliest mass killings in Tennessee history.

Eight people were murdered and his lawyer is now asking for three separate trials.

The likely defense: An insanity plea and Cummins conduct behind bars may be a clue to his state of mind. He will stand trial -- possibly three trials depending on a judge's decision. But based on the physical evidence and DNA, investigators said there's little doubt he's responsible for eight murders.

"It's not only complex but horrific," said David Rausch, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, when describing the primary crime scene in the spring of 2019.

Authorities found six bodies in a Westmoreland home and two other victims at separate locations. Those dead include his parents and a 12-year-old girl.

The prime suspect - Michael Cummins. The evidence is overwhelming: Cummins footprints were found at one bloody scene, he was caught with a victim's car and there is DNA.

A strong case made stronger because one of the victims, Cummins' own grandmother, survived a brutal beating. Her memory of what happened has improved and she is expected to testify against him at trial.

"With all the cooperation and all the information we have, we will see that justice is done," said District Attorney Ray Whitley.

The defense wants separate trials for each of the three murder scenes. Prosecutors want one, saying they're all linked.

Whether one or three trials, Cummins will likely seek an insanity plea. He's held without bond and is considered one of the most dangerous inmates in Riverbend Maximum Security prison.

NewsChannel 5 has learned he's tried setting fires in his cell, earlier this year attempted to attack a guard, and is a constant risk to hurt himself or others. Cummins is held in Super Max, is considered both homicidal and suicidal and is never moved without leg irons, handcuffs and a belly chain.

The district attorney is seeking the death penalty.

The legal wrangling in the case continues. The judge will decide next month if Cummins will face one or three separate trials. Whatever the decision, the case won't go to court until next spring.