BELFAST, Maine — The woman police say shot her husband to death two months ago in their home, where investigators subsequently discovered radioactive materials and instructions for making a “dirty bomb,” has been charged with his murder.
The Waldo County grand jury handed up its indictment of Amber B. Cummings, 31, after Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea and police detectives presented their case to the panel on Thursday.
The indictment was made public Friday, a short time after Cummings turned herself in at the Waldo County Jail where she remains without bail. She is scheduled to make her initial appearance in 5th District Court at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Cummings was indicted on a charge of “intentional or knowing murder” in the death of James G. Cummings, 29. Police say Cummings killed her husband with a Colt 45 Peacemaker pistol in his High Street home the morning of Dec. 9.
The couple’s 9-year-old daughter was in the home at the time of the shooting. A relative of Amber Cummings’ living in California said arrangements have been made for the girl’s care.
Police received a 911 call at 11:21 a.m. Dec. 9 from a neighbor who reported there had been a shooting next door. Amber Cummings and her daughter, Clara, had appeared at the woman’s door asking for assistance. Detectives questioned Amber Cummings at the home while other officers investigated the residence and found the body of James Cummings.
The Cummingses moved to Belfast in August 2007 after buying a fixer-upper in a foreclosure sale for $153,900. They were married in Fort Bragg, in Mendocino County, Calif. They grew up and lived in California and Texas before moving to Maine.
Cummings was the son of a wealthy Fort Bragg landowner who also had been murdered. The elder Cummings was shot to death by a former employee in 1997.
The James Cummings shooting has been a major topic of discussion in the city, especially since this week’s revelation that he apparently had radioactive materials and instructions for making “dirty bombs” at the home. The materials were removed from the home after the shooting. Authorities have assured the public that there was never a threat of danger.
Although Maine authorities have impounded the search warrants connected with the Cummings case, they did share some information with the FBI. According to an FBI internal memo that leaked from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center, some of the evidence in the home linked Cummings to “dirty bombs” and white supremacist groups. The FBI memo was part of a report on possible threats to President-elect Barack Obama before his inauguration on Jan. 20. A spokeswoman for the WRTAC said this week the threat posed by Cummings was quickly deemed baseless.
The FBI memo said Amber Cummings told police that her husband spoke of “dirty bombs” and mixed chemicals in her kitchen sink. She said she had endured years of mental, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband. She also told police that her husband was “very upset” when Obama was elected president.
The California relative of Cummings, who fears reprisals from extremist groups and declined to be identified, said Amber Cummings told her that her husband intended to set off bombs during the inauguration.
“His plan was to take out the president and his family,” she said Friday.
Amber Cummings’ attorney, Eric Morse of Rockland, was on vacation and unavailable for comment Friday, according to The Associated Press.
Tradesmen who worked at the Cummings home last summer said he bragged to them of owning a number of guns and spoke frequently of his admiration for Adolf Hitler. Cummings also had an extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia, including some of Hitler’s personal silverware and place settings, according to the workmen.
A National Socialist Movement membership application filled out by Cummings also was found in the house, according to the FBI report.
Brian Anderson, a reporter for the Anderson Valley Advertiser in Boonville, Calif., has written extensively about the Cummings family over the years. Anderson said the younger Cummings had been involved in a lengthy court fight with the trustees of his father’s estate and left Fort Bragg in 2003 after receiving a settlement. The FBI report said Cummings had bragged about inheriting $2 million.
Anderson said that Cummings’ father was a violent man and “a gun nut.” He did not know much about Amber Cummings, only that she came from a humble family. As for James Cummings, Anderson described him as a loner who seemed obsessed with his battle with the trustees of the estate.
“He just grew up kind of a sad, isolated guy. He always struck me as a sort of lonely guy,” Anderson said Friday. “When I heard he was shot and killed by his wife, I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t surprised to hear about his ideological interests, either.”
In an e-mail sent Thursday from his headquarters in Detroit, Mich., Commander Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement stated that the group does not “endorse any acts of violence or terrorism.” Schoep described the group as a “white civil rights movement” that adheres to political activism and a legal means to restore America to its former glory.
“Acts of violence or terrorism against America or its citizens is unacceptable and not tolerated within the ranks of the National Socialist Movement,” Schoep stated.
Listed among the items removed from the Cummings home were uranium, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron oxide and magnesium.
Also found were literature on how to build “dirty bombs” and information about other radioactive materials used to manufacture nuclear bombs. A “dirty bomb” is a type of device that combines conventional explosives with radioactive material. When exploded, the bomb disperses radiation throughout the immediate area.
C. Thomas Hess, a physics professor at the University of Maine, said Friday that the materials found in Cummings’ home were more likely to create a fire hazard than a radioactive threat.
He said the uranium was too low-grade to have created a radiation hazard.
“I don’t think this guy knew what he was doing,” Hess said.
Cummings’ MySpace page viewed on Friday showed photos and videos of nuclear explosions, human skulls and the Grim Reaper. It also cited the music of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as some of Cummings’ favorite things.