Belfast man was asleep when killed

Posted March 20, 2009, at 3:52 p.m.

BELFAST — Information contained in court documents has revealed that homicide victim James G. Cummings was shot twice in the head by his wife while he was asleep in bed.

Cummings, who was shot to death at his home in this Waldo County city last December and later was found to have accumulated a cache of explosive materials and directions to manufacture a “dirty bomb,” also possessed a large amount of child pornography, according to the documents.

Evidence of child pornography was found in a computer removed from Cummings’ High Street home after the Dec. 9, 2008, shooting. His 31-year-old wife, Amber K. Cummings, has been charged with murdering her 29-year-old husband.

According to a search warrant affidavit filed with the case and released Friday, the computer tower inspected by the state contained 45 digital movie clips and another 700 digital photograph images depicting child pornography.

The affidavit described the discovery as “evidence of the intentional or knowing manufacture, possession or dissemination of sexually explicit materials.” The affidavit further stated that the images were of young children exposing their genitals or engaged in sexual acts.

The search warrants and affidavits had been impounded since the murder but were released by Waldo County Superior Court after the expiration of the 90-day impoundment deadline.

Before their release, the only information released by investigators was that they had classified the death as a domestic violence homicide and that James Cummings had been shot with a .45-caliber Colt Peacemaker pistol. The number of shots or the location of the shots was not made public until Friday.

Another affidavit revealed that Amber Cummings admitted to state police detectives that she shot her husband twice in the head while he was asleep in the bedroom.

On Feb. 13, the Waldo County grand jury indicted Amber Cummings for the “intentional and knowing murder” of her husband. When she appeared in court the next Tuesday she entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and was released on $50,000 bail.

Documents made public Friday indicate that Amber Cummings will be withdrawing her insanity plea. She is scheduled to appear again in court on March 26. No further details of the intended plea change were available.

When police arrived at the home on Dec. 9, they observed a firearm on the bedroom floor and found Cummings in bed with blankets covering his body. He had an apparent gunshot wound to the head. A pillow with “gunshot residue” was taken from the home as evidence, according to the affidavits.

The court documents provided a brief outline of what Amber Cummings and her 9-year-old daughter told state police detectives after the shooting. There also was a list of the items seized from the home, including weapons and explosive and radioactive material along with directions to build a “dirty bomb.”

In her motions asking that information gleaned from the multiple searches of the Cummings’ home and computers be kept secret, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zania stated the information should not be made public because it would be “detrimental to the ongoing investigation.” She emphasized there were “items seized there that are sensitive in nature and should not be disclosed to the public at this time.”

Authorities later acknowledged they had shared information about the explosive and radioactive materials with the FBI. An FBI internal memo listing some of the dangerous items and noting James Cummings’ alleged terrorist leanings and plans to build a dirty bomb was leaked on the Internet last month by unattributable.com and reported on by the Bangor Daily News.

Maine authorities confirmed the existence of the chemical materials only after confronted with the Bangor Daily News story. They stated the public was never in any danger. Some of Cummings’ neighbors thought otherwise.

Police were dispatched to the Cummings home at 11:21 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9, after a neighbor called to report gunfire. The neighbor told dispatchers that Amber Cummings and her daughter were with her and that Amber Cummings, though initially uncommunicative, had said she shot her husband.

State police Detective Dean Jackson interviewed Cummings’ daughter and reported that she told him she heard “gunshots” from upstairs and that her mother entered the room and told her to run. Mother and daughter then ran next door, Jackson stated in an affidavit. The daughter also told police her mother spent a lot of time on the computer.

Amber Cummings admitted shooting her husband when state police Detective Jason Richards and Belfast Detective Michael McFadden interviewed her at the neighbor’s home, according to the documents.

Cummings told detectives that her husband had previously punched and blackened her eye and that she entered a digital image of her injury into her computer but later deleted it. She said her husband also took a photo of the black eye.

Cummings told the investigators that her husband “had neo-Nazi extremist views and frequently had her log onto different Web sites and chat rooms to further his beliefs.” She said he also would explore chat rooms and Web sites “seeking women to join their sexual relationship,” according to the affidavit. He frequently searched the Web for “certain chemical information,” she told police, and that he had a safe filled with chemicals.

Listed among the radioactive properties and chemicals found during the subsequent search of the home were uranium, thorium, beryllium, lithium metal, boron, black iron oxide, magnesium ribbon and hydrogen peroxide. Also found were instructions for making a dirty bomb and documents with “terroristic/hate content,” ac-cording to an affidavit.

A dirty bomb combines conventional explosives with radioactive material and, when exploded, disperses radiation in the immediate area. Experts have said it was very unlikely Cummings could have constructed an effective dirty bomb with the materials found in the house. The FBI memo was part of a report on possible threats to President-elect Barack Obama before his inauguration on Jan. 20, but a spokeswoman for the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center said any threat posed by Cummings was quickly deemed baseless.

More than a half-dozen loaded handguns, a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, and boxes of shotgun shells and ammunition were among the items found at the house. Cummings had bragged of his arsenal to tradesmen who worked for him last summer. He also spoke to them of his admiration for Adolf Hitler and told them he owned some of Hitler’s cutlery and dishes.

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