Westmoreland killings: Michael Cummins trial delayed until 2022; Key witness may not testify

Posted at 5:50 PM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 07:08:22-04

WESTMORELAND, Tenn. (WTVF) — He's accused of the deadliest mass killing in Tennessee history, but due to several factors, the suspect will not stand trial until 2022.

Prosecutors say Michael Cummins is a mass murderer and an extremely dangerous man. They are seeking the death penalty.

"It's not only complex but horrific," said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch in describing the primary crime scene in Sumner County in April of last year.

Six bodies were found in a Westmoreland home. Two more were found at other locations. The prime suspect? Cummins. Those dead included his parents, uncle and a child.

Cummins' footprints were found at the scene, and he was caught with a victim's car.

A strong case made even stronger because one of the victims, Cummins' own grandmother, survived a brutal beating.

"She'll be the star witness because she'll be the only one who can actually place the defendant at the scene that she saw first hand. That's a powerful witness," said NewsChannel 5 legal analyst Nick Leonardo last year.

But, now there's a problem. The grandmother recovered from her physical injuries, but she initially had no memory of the attack.

Prosecutors hoped with time her memory might return, but now after more than a year, there's still no recollection of what happened. District Attorney Ray Whitley says that complicates things. So, too, does the fact that the TBI must investigate each murder individually from the rest.

It will just take time. And remember, with so much pretrial publicity, the trial will likely have to be heard by a jury from outside the area.

And then there is this: the defense almost certainly asked for a much more detailed psychological evaluation of Cummins. His best and most likely defense will be diminished capacity or insanity. It all adds up to months more of waiting.

But despite all the delay, Cummins will remain behind bars. Because this is a death penalty case, there is no bond and he'll stay locked up.