A jury was selected Monday evening in the trial of the only man still facing charges in a 2016 case for shooting one man dead and then stabbing a woman to death.
Dwayne Cummings, 40, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed kidnapping in the 2016 deaths of Karl Tuxford and Jodan Finlon. If convicted of first-degree murder, Cummings would automatically be sentenced to life in prison. The state is not seeking the death penalty.
Just before 7 p.m. Monday, a jury panel was selected and sworn in. The 14 jurors, composed of eight men and six women, include two alternates.
The trial will resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, when jurors will hear opening statements from both sides before the state begins to present its case against Cummings.
Never miss a local story.
Prosecutors say Cummings killed the victims in retaliation for burglarizing his home on Jan. 18, 2016, to steal money that the victims later used to buy drugs, according to the investigation by the Manatee Homicide Investigative Unit.
Just before 1 p.m. Jan. 19, 2016, Tuxford, 38, was found shot dead and partially hanging out of his Jeep when Bradenton police officers responded to the 1100 block of Eighth Avenue East to reports of a shooting. Tuxford, who had been shot five times, was declared dead at the scene.
Less than an hour later, Finlon’s body was found by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies on the side of Bishop Harbor Road in Terra Ceia Preserve State Park in northern Manatee County after getting a call from motorists who spotted her body when they drove past. Finlon had been stabbed between 40 to 44 times, according to autopsy results.
Cummings sat among his defense team during the jury selection on Monday, dressed in a light blue dress shirt and tie. He showed little emotion as potential jurors were questioned throughout the day.
Members of the victims’ families sitting in the back of the courtroom during jury selection did seem to have Cummings’ attention.
Among the witnesses from whom the jurors will hear this week will be Cummings’ co-defendant, Ahmad Dunbar.
Dunbar took a plea deal in August pleading guilty to accessory to murder in exchange for a sentence of credit for time served, one year of house arrest and one year of probation. A condition of the negotiated plea, however, is that he testify in court. Following the conclusion of the trial and his testimony, Dunbar will be allowed to convert his sentence to simple probation and no longer would be required to wear an ankle monitor.
The plea deal came in the wake of the death of a star witness in the case, Fredderick “Freddie” Douglas, who died unexectedly a few months before the plea deal.