Sumner County murder suspect Michael Cummins stopped contacting his probation officer just one week before the first of eight murder victims was found brutally killed last month, according to a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC).
A probation officer was unsuccessful in locating the 25-year-old at his home during two separate visits on April 10, according to Neysa Taylor, director of communications for TDOC. Cummins then failed to report to a scheduled check-in on April 12.
Five days later, 63-year-old James “Jim” Dunn Jr. was found dead near his burned cabin on Ransom Mandrell Road northwest of Westmoreland. Police now say Cummins is responsible.
According to Taylor, TDOC policy gives an individual 15 days to correct any issues they have before an arrest warrant for violation of probation is sought.
“Obviously, we try to work with them to get them into compliance,” Taylor said. “Just because (Cummins) did not report on the 12th did not mean that they gave up on him on the 12th. They tried to reach him repeatedly over the course of those two weeks.”
“He was reporting in and he was submitting to his home checks up until the very end which is when he (stopped).”
A probation officer had attempted to get an arrest warrant on Friday, April 26 – one day before the bodies of seven other murder victims were found at two separate homes northwest of Westmoreland – but the paperwork did not get the required signature from a judge.
According to a violation of probation affidavit, Cummins failed to comply with special conditions imposed by the court specifically addressing a mental health evaluation and a no contact order with the neighbor whose house he tried to burn down in 2017.
Even if the warrant had been issued, Sumner County District Attorney Ray Whitley said it was unlikely Cummins would have been taken into custody the same day.
“Once it’s signed, then it has to be sent to the sheriff’s department for service,” Whitley added. “I don’t know when that would have taken place. There is no way of anybody knowing that.”
The April murders occurred just three months after Cummins was released from jail and placed on probation for 10 years following attempted aggravated arson and aggravated assault convictions last year.
According to court documents, he was sentenced on July 19 to 10 years in jail at 30 percent, which was reduced to 180 days.
Whitley declined to discuss specifics of the sentence but added that “everybody now has 20/20 hindsight.”
“The plea was entered after he had been in jail for a year and then he was to serve another five months,” Whitley said. “We are under a lot of pressure – the courts and the prosecutors – to try to have alternative sentencing and get people the help rather than just sending them to jail and letting them sit there. That’s about as much as I can say.”
A criminal hearing in Sumner County General Sessions Court for Cummins is scheduled for May 29.