As a bailiff was leading Michael Cummings out of the courtroom through the door reserved for inmates and convicts, moments after Cummings pleaded to murdering his ex-wife, Faith Cummings, in their Palm Coast home almost two years ago, one of Faith’s half-dozen family members and friends who’d showed up for the hearing sought to send the murderer a message.
She stood close to the bar dividing the gallery from the courtroom, arms crossed, unmoving but for her eyes. She glared at Cummings as he walked out. He feigned not to notice. But he knew: on his way in not 15 minutes earlier he’d seen the half dozen family members in the gallery and likely recognized at least some of the three detectives who’d worked the case–Gabe Fuentes, Annie Conrad, Dennis Lashbrook.
“Nobody wishes to be heard today, we’ll reserve that for sentencing,” Assistant State Prosecutor Mark Johnson told Circuit Judge Terence Perkins when the judge asked if any of Faith’s kin wanted to address the court.
Cummings had insisted for almost two years that he was innocent. He turned down a plea offer two weeks ago. He was set to go to trial next week on a first-degree murder charge. Instead, today he agreed to a plea of no contest to second-degree murder. He faces a range of 30 years to life in prison when Perkins sentences him at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 20.
“My discretion is going to be limited to no less than 30, no more than life,” Perkins told him today. Given his age, Cummings, who is 48, was pleading to what amounts to close to a life sentence either way: if he survives the length of his incarceration, he would be in his mid-70s when released, assuming he qualifies for early release after serving 85 percent of his sentence.
Faith was 44 when he killed her.
Cummings pleaded today to murdering Faith Cummings on Jan. 11 in what sheriff’s officials described as a “brutal” killing at the house the couple shared at 6 Point Pleasant Drive, just off Belle Terre Parkway. Based on the detectives’ investigative reports, the couple had been divorced in 2013 but had lived together again after Faith had inherited money. He was the jealous type, rifling through Faith’s phone, accusing her of cheating on him, even accusing her of cheating with her nephew. The night before the murder, he “posted a rant on Facebook about being let down by someone he trusted,” according to one of the investigative reports. Faith had become very close friends with another ex-wife of Mike’s, and that ex-wife told detectives of his jealous and violent tendencies, including a time when he’d choked her. Faith’s daughter would tell detectives of “a history of physical and mental abuse” by Mike. Another daughter described it as “a very dangerous relationship.”
The ex-wife told detectives that “Michael would never admit to doing anything, and he would take it to his grave; she said that you could catch him red-handed doing something and he would still deny doing it.”
A close friend of Faith’s told detectives that after Faith had had brain surgery, Cummings became violent with her and struck her on the side of the head where she’d been operated on.
“Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t control people,” he’d told sheriff’s deputies after they reported to the house, immediately following the report of Faith’s death. “Oh my god I have mountains to climb now.” He congratulated himself on calling law enforcement. “I am going through so much you have no idea, I am a guy who doesn’t control anybody, I was going to leave, I was planning on leaving, I already was ready to go.”
“I have to live with this for the rest of my life,” he’d told Fuentes, the detective, at one point, standing next to Faith’s uncovered body in the house, himself dripping with self-pity. “My life isn’t going to last much longer. I’m going to suffer.” Moments later, and still in the vicinity of the body, Fuentes asked him what he thought caused Faith’s death, and Cummings replied: “Sorry to sound like a nigga but fuh real … that is a ghetto.” He then repeated accusations of cheating (accusations detectives tried to corroborate at the motels Cummings said Faith had allegedly frequented, only to be told by clerks there she’d never been there–but that they’d recognized Michael.)In 2006 he’d attempted suicide after an argument with Faith, and after he’d become violent with her, according to the report of a Baker Act. It was one of five interventions by police when Faith and Michael lived in Port Orange between 2004 and 2010. After he called authorities to report Faith’s death on Jan. 11, 2018, a death he claimed at the time was an accident after she collapsed in the bathroom, detectives found signs of bodily violence and extensive struggles. For several days in early March, a van and a truck from Royal Plus Disaster Kleenup were seen at the house, which either Faith or Michael had been renting. The house sold that August. Today it was still decked out in remnants of ghostly Halloween decorations and a few still-bright-orange pumpkins.
Cummings appeared in court today nearly in a crew cut, in contrast with his long, pony-tailed hair the night he was arrested on Jan. 15, 2018, or even the way he appeared two weeks ago, with hair still bushy but no longer long. He seemed to mumble answers to the judge until Perkins asked that the microphone be adjusted so he could speak directly into it. Even then, Cummings only gave yes and no answers as the judge went through the required questions to make sure Cummings was tendering his plea of his own free will. His expression did not say anything in particular, either.
When Perkins asked him if he had anything to say, Cummings said no. It was then that the judge ended the hearing and a bailiff took Cummings by the side door, ducking from the glare.