Sentencing today in Belfast slaying

Posted Jan. 06, 2010, at 9:10 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Medical experts are scheduled to testify in support of Amber Cummings when she is sentenced today for the shooting death of her husband.

Cummings, 32, of Belfast, pleaded guilty in November to domestic violence manslaughter for the Dec. 9, 2008, killing of her 29-year-old husband, James G. Cummings. Cummings was shot twice in the head while he slept. The couple’s then-9-year-old daughter was in the home the morning of the shooting.

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached with the state, Amber Cummings accepted a sentence of eight years in prison with all but one year suspended and six years’ probation.

The one-year sentence is a maximum cap, and defense attorney Eric Morse of Rockland said he planned to ask Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm to suspend that part of the sentence and place Cummings on probation. He said Cummings should not be separated from her daughter at such a critical time in their lives.

The Attorney General’s Office accepted the plea after forensic examination conducted by Dr. Andrew Wish, the state’s psychiatrist, found that Amber Cummings was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and battered woman syndrome.

Morse said three therapists who have treated Cummings and her daughter since the killing also will speak at today’s sentencing hearing in Waldo County Superior Court.

He said each of the expert witnesses would explain in detail the physical, emotional and sexual abuse James Cummings subjected his wife to during their 10-year marriage. Cummings also struck his child repeatedly and instilled in both his wife and daughter a paranoid doctrine of hate and racial prejudice all the while keeping them isolated from family and the outside world, he said.

“They will emphasize that any jail time would not only have a traumatic effect on Amber, but also her daughter,” Morse said Wednesday. “Each of them have endured years of trauma and abuse and any separation of the mother and daughter in light of what they went through would only add to that. Both have endured a decade of abuse.”

Amber Cummings has been free on $50,000 bail since her indictment, and Morse said that she and her now 10-year-old daughter have made great progress in the year since the killing. Both remain in therapy and have been welcomed into the community. The daughter, whom Cummings forced his wife to teach at home, is at-tending school and learning social skills. Amber Cummings has been working part-time.

According to police reports, Amber Cummings believed that she and her daughter were to be killed by James Cummings during a terrorist attack he planned to unleash on Washington, D.C., at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The reports described James Cummings as an avowed racist enthralled with Adolph Hitler who had gathered explosive, radioactive and chemical components to construct a so-called dirty bomb.

Cummings told police Obama’s election angered her husband and that he planned to blow up himself and his family when he bombed the Capitol. Bomb-making materials and instructions were found in the Cummings home after his death.

Besides finding weapons and explosives, police discovered a large amount of child pornography on computers removed from the Cummings home. According to a search warrant filed with the case, 45 digital movie clips and 700 digital photographic images depicting children were uncovered on the computers. More than a half-dozen loaded handguns, a loaded 12-gauge shotgun and boxes of ammunition were among the items taken from the house. James Cummings was found dead in bed with a loaded handgun under his pillow and another in his nightstand.

wgriffin@bangordailynews.net

338-9546

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