The state will continue presenting its case against Dwayne Cummings on Wednesday as the man who prosecutors say helped him commit the murders is expected to take the stand.
On Jan. 19, 2016, Karl Tuxford, 38, was found shot five times and partially hanging out of his Jeep when Bradenton police responded to the a report of a shooting in the 1100 block of Eighth Avenue East in Bradenton. Less than an hour later, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies found Jordan Finlon, 23, dead on the side of Bishop Harbor Road in Terra Ceia Preserve State Park in northern Manatee County. She had been stabbed 40 to 44 times.
Cummings, 40, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and armed kidnapping in their deaths, which prosecutors have said were in retaliation for a burglary of his home. If convicted of first-degree murder, Cummings would automatically be sentenced to life in prison.
In opening statements Tuesday morning, Assistant State Attorney Art Brown told the jury Ahmad Dunbar, Cumming’s co-defendant, would explain what happened to Finlon and Tuxford, including how Finlon confessed to the burglary before she was stabbed more than three dozen times.
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Dunbar is among the witnesses expected to testify on Wednesday. The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday with the state expected to call one of the lead detectives in the case, Detective Jeffrey Bliss.
In August, Dunbar took a plea deal, pleading guilty to accessory to first-degree murder. He was sentenced to credit for time served, one year of house arrest and one year of probation on the condition that he testify in Cummings’ trial.
One of Cummings’ defense attorneys, DeMone Lee, pointed out that Dunbar was given the deal by the state after Fredrick “Freddie” Douglas, a star witness in the case, unexpectedly died. Other witnesses have either lived with or dated Douglas and Dunbar, Lee said.
Before recessing for the day, Brown requested time be set aside later in the week to depose new witnesses listed by the defense Tuesday. Defense attorney Lily Gonzalez said she had only learned of at least one of the witnesses the night before, and the other was in federal custody. Both witnesses are defendants who are facing murder charges in other cases.
On one side of the courtroom, rows were filled with family of the victims, and on the other sat family members of the defendant.
Brown also said that though evidence will show Finlon was addicted to drugs, she made a “reckless mistake” and burglarized Cumming’s home, where she had been staying. When Cummings noticed a safe missing from his home, he immediately suspected Finlon, Brown said.
He added that what lured Finlon to her fate was an offer to buy heroin, “baiting her with something she could not resist.”
Cummings interrogated Finlon about the burglary until she confessed, Brown said, then she was stabbed in the arms, neck and back.
The state also argued it was Cummings, armed with a gun, who got in to backseat of the Jeep that Tuxford was driving. The text message that lured Finlon to the men came from Douglas, and Douglas lived in the home from where the victims were kidnapped.
The area in Rubonia where Finlon was killed was a location that Dunbar frequented. A knife pulled from the water matched a set of knives in Dunbar’s father’s Rubonia home.
The 14-person jury — eight men and six women — was sworn in just before 7 p.m. Monday and includes two alternates.
Several crime-scene technicians, deputies, the sheriff’s office fingerprint unit manager and a firearms expert took the stand Tuesday afternoon.
All nine casings examined by Jennifer Clark, a firearms expert from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s crime lab, came from the same 9 mm cartridge, and were fired from the same firearm, she testified.
Deputy Jared Wolfe, a member of the sheriff’s office dive team, also testified about the several days of diving into the Manatee River that led to the recovery of the knife suspected to have been used to kill Finlon and a .38-caliber gun, not the gun they were looking for.