“If there is anything that I miss most about my mother,” Victoria Martin told the court about Faith Cummings, who was murdered by her ex-husband in Palm Coast two years ago, “it’s that no matter what she was the best grandmother to my children that I could ever imagine. My oldest child asks where his grandma is and why she isn’t here for him anymore, and because of him being so young he wouldn’t be able to comprehend the reason his grandma died.
Faith was 44 when Michael Cummings, now 48, killed her at their Point Pleasant home on Jan. 11, 2018 in what the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office described as a “brutal” attack that may have stretched over a period of time. Michael Cummings, who family members and friends had described as having violent outbursts over the years, had been in a jealous rage, though he claimed innocence and for months stuck to a story about Faith just dying mysteriously in the shower. He changed his story last month and pleaded to the murder.
This morning, Circuit Judge Terence Perkins sentenced Cummings to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Faith was bruised all over her body when paramedics arrived at the house at 6 Point Pleasant Drive off of Belle Terre Parkway early the morning of January 11. In details of the killings not revealed until now, Michael Cummings had left her naked on a bed, bleeding from the bridge of her nose, blood running down the left side of her face, bruises covering her body, her right eye swollen shut by a black and blue bruise. Lacerations covered her face and neck. A paramedic pronounced her dead at 7:45 that morning.
Michael Cummings had called the cops, claimed he and his ex-wife had argued (he’d accused her of cheating) but that he’d gone to sleep and later heard a thump in the shower. He claims to have found Faith there, and to have given her CPR for a long time. A forensic analyst would later tell detectives that Faith had been the victim of violence with some type of weapon, and that her injuries were not consistent with a mere fall. The next day the medical examiner determined the cause of death as resulting from blunt force trauma: she had been struck and asphyxiated.
Cummings was charged with second degree murder and arrested on Jan. 15, 2018. On May 8, a grand jury indicted him on a first-degree murder charge. Last month Cummings pleaded to a second degree charge, knowing that the maximum he could be sentenced to was life in prison. The minimum would have been 30 years. Perkins made no room for that.
“My youngest and my unborn child will never get to meet their grandmother who would have loved them with all her heart,” Martin continued. “She will never get to see them grow and become the adults that she would have loved even more than any of us could imagine. Birthdays, graduations, promotions and every other important life event will now happen without their grandmother. It hurts my heart every single day when I think about how my children now have to grow up without their grandmother. Everyday I go through my life with a huge emotional strain knowing I no longer have my mom when I need her, when I am having good times and bad. When I need advice or even that person I could always vent to, now I can’t call her. She was my rock, who I looked to for every aspect of my life.”
The case was prosecuted by Mark Johnson. Cummings was defended by Joshua Mosley. Mosley had filed a set of three character reference letters in hopes of mitigating the sentence, including one from Gail Cummings, Michael’s mother, who’d lost a son, Bill (Michael’s brother), to cancer six months before the death of Faith. She had given another son up for adoption when she was very young. All she had left was Michael. “From the time Bill found his cancer was terminal I noticed an emotional decline in Michael and a problem with alcohol,” Gail wrote. “I know his reasoning, behavior, and judgment were affected.”
Gail’s words to the court then described the sort of deep and wide ripples that affect lives far beyond those at the heart of a a fatal crime: “Never in my life would I have imagined anything like this happening,” she wrote. “The days are extremely tough for me now and the nights are worse. I’m 70 years old and miss my sons terribly. I fear being without them for the rest of my life but that’s not why I’m writing this letter. I’m asking for forgiveness and leniency for my son Michael.”
Leah Novello of Deltona wrote of her friend Michael, a musician in his own right, with whom she’d developed as a musician. She described him, in words with unintended but bitter irony, as always “cool, calm, collected around us,” and as a “calming presence in a stressful situation.” She was “shocked” by the news of the murder. She said she would always call him a friend, and had no doubts about the goodness in him. Her husband added a long letter of his own about his 10-year friendship with Michael. “It is my opinion that this case while horrendous and shocking is only part of a much larger problem and a reflection of us as a society,” he wrote. “This is not just about the criminal that stands before you today, but also about how we have failed each other as a people.”
But while other cases of domestic violence often point to untreated mental health issues, for example, this one did not. It pointed only to a relationship that had ended and resumed after Faith had gotten a substantial financial settlement, and to a man who’d had a history of controlling those closest to him, sometimes with violent behavior. The defense never claimed that Michael had been short on faculties or awareness of what he was doing, and alcohol consumption is never a defense for criminal acts.
Michael Cummings was contrite, regretful, weepy this morning, giving even the judge some pause, but just pause, before imposing the harshest sentence.
For all of the supportive words in Michael’s defense, and for all of Michael’s own regrets, there were the words of of Faith’s children, who saw no reason, no excuse or mitigating factors behind their mother’s killing. “Every single day since the murder of my mom I have questioned every single decision I have made,” her daughter Shannon McQueen told the court. “I’ve questioned every single relationship I have in my life. I struggle every day with what feels like an inability to connect to anyone new because who would want to take a friend who is constantly in emotional distress like I am, even almost two years later. I feel as though I have lost myself. And every day I struggle to find who I used to be or who I will become now without my mother. Every single day I think about how I would call my mom and ask for her advice, even on the smallest of things. She was who I called when I was grocery shopping just so I wasn’t alone, who I would call when I was walking by myself because I knew she was the one who cared the most about me. Even being two thousand miles away I still talked to her every chance I got, because she was my person.”