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Death penalty sought for Tennessee man accused of killing 8

Michael Cummins, right, sits with his attorneys during a preliminary court hearing Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Gallatin, Tenn. Cummins faces multiple counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of eight people in a nearby rural community in April. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

GALLATIN, Tenn. — A prosecutor has signaled his intent to seek the death penalty against a Tennessee man charged with killing eight people, six of whom were found dead in a rural trailer.

A grand jury returned a 12-count indictment Thursday against 25-year-old Michael Cummins. He is charged with killing his parents, uncle and a 12-year-old girl in rural Westmoreland in April. Affidavits say the victims died from blunt-force injuries.

Sumner County District Attorney Ray Whitley, who confirmed the indictment, also filed notice that he will seek the death penalty in prosecuting Cummins.

Cummins’ criminal record is peppered with probation violations and court-ordered mental health evaluations.

At the time of the slayings, Cummins was close to being arrested for probation violations. He was on probation after serving just 16 months of a 10-year sentence on a conviction for attempting in September 2017 to burn down a neighbor’s house and assaulting her when she tried to put out the fire.

Cummins had also violated his probation by running into the woods when officers were making a probation-related home visit on April 10 and he failed to report to the probation office two days later as ordered, a judge said in May.

At a preliminary hearing in May, Cummins sat in a wheelchair with a cast on his leg from the bullet wound he received when authorities found him after a brief manhunt. Cummins bobbed his head back and forth throughout the hearing.

In a trailer, authorities found the bodies of 12-year-old Sapphire McGlothlin-Pee; Cummins’ parents, 51-year-old David Carl Cummins and 44-year-old Clara Jane Cummins; Cummins’ 45-year-old uncle Charles Hosale; and Sapphire’s mother, 43-year-old Rachel Dawn McGlothlin-Pee, and her grandmother, 64-year-old Marsha Elizabeth Nuckols.

Another victim, 69-year-old Shirley B. Fehrle, was found dead in a separate home and has no known relationship to Cummins, authorities have said. Prosecutors believe Cummins stole Fehrle’s car and left it in a creekbed.

Those seven bodies were discovered on April 27 and 28.

On April 17— 10 days before the discovery of the bodies in the trailer — an officer found Jim Dunn’s body not far from a burned cabin, with his head nearby, an affidavit says. Authorities said they believe the body had been there for three or four days and that animals had detached Dunn’s head.

Cummins was later seen with a rifle that looked like one of Dunn’s that had gone missing, and on April 27, authorities discovered the missing gun at the trailer where six of the victims were found, the affidavit says.

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