Two men charged in the Jan. 19 slayings of Karl Tuxford and Jordan Finlon will stand trial in February.
Just before 1 p.m. Jan. 19, Tuxford, 38, was found shot to death in his vehicle in the 1100 block of Eighth Avenue East after police received reports of gunfire. Less than an hour later, the body of Finlon, 23, was discovered by passing motorists on the side of Bishop Harbor Road in northern Manatee County.
Dwayne Edward Cummings, 39, the first suspect charged in the case, was arrested days after the slayings. He was later indicted on two counts of first-degree murder, armed kidnapping and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Ahmad Leon Dunbar, 38, was later identified by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office as a suspect Feb. 15 after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He is charged with second-degree murder with a firearm in the fatal shooting of Tuxford, but has not been charged in Finlon’s death.
On Wednesday morning, the cases against Cummings and Dunbar were scheduled to go to trial during the two-week trial period beginning Feb. 21.
Dunbar and Cummings will likely be tried separately attorneys agreed Wednesday. Circuit Judge Hunter Carroll said they could still be set to run during the same trial period since neither was expected to last more than one week.
Later in the morning, Dunbar appeared before Carroll in a separate hearing as his defense attorney Demone Wyatt Lee argued he should be granted bond.
“This is a case about a man and his liberty,” Lee said. “We are at a bond hearing and the state is trying to keep him from exercising his liberty based upon the words of individuals with no credibility.”
Assistant State Attorney Art Brown said the burden of proof necessary to hold Cummings without bond had been met.
“We have established the proof is evident and presumption is great that Mr. Cummings is responsible for this homicide,” Brown concluded. “Several witnesses indicate that he got into the Jeep with Mr. Tuxford and Ms. Finlon. Mr. Douglas indicated that he is responsible for both deaths. Video corroborates the testimony of these witnesses.”
Video surveillance evidence did not depict Cummings, Lee argued in his closing statement. Video surveillance evidence was “only as good as the word of these checkered-past witnesses.”
Lead homicide detectives Jeffrey Bliss and James Curulla with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Investigative Unit testified to the evidence in the case against Cummings, including multiple surveillance videos.
Bliss was asked by Lee if he ever confirmed the identity of the owner of the black SUV seen in video surveillance. The tag number never appeared in either video, Bliss said.
“That would be the only way to confirm 100 percent that was his car. All I can testify to is it is very consistent with the vehicle owned by the defendant, wheels and everything” Bliss said.
Lee tried to say it was an assumption.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an assumption. I’d say it’s a very likelihood that it’s his vehicle,” Bliss responded.
Lee then asked Bliss if he knew for sure Cummings was the one seen on video exiting the black SUV and approaching Tuxford’s green Jeep despite his testimony Cummings matched the individual’s description.
“The video is not a 100 percent clear, and it does strongly appear to be the defendant, but I couldn’t say without a doubt that was him,” Bliss said.
Bliss also detailed an emotional statement Douglas had given about how Finlon was driven to Rubonia in another car, a Cadillac owned by Cummings, as Dunbar sat close to her in the backseat. Cummings pulled her out when they arrived. According to Bliss, Douglas said Cummings then brutally stabbed her.
“He said it was so brutal he couldn’t really look at it, he had to turn away,” Bliss said. “She was making some whimpering noises, gasping for air and it was a friend of his so he couldn’t really watch.”
Finlon was stabbed an estimated 40 to 44 times, it was calculated during the autopsy, Bliss said adding it is one of the most brutal murders he has ever seen.
Lee had argued no motive was identified, but detectives have said the killings were revenge for a burglary to Cummings’ home days before believed to be committed by Tuxford and Finlon in an effort to buy drugs. Curulla testified about how text messages obtained from Finlon’s cell phone narrate how she was directing Tuxford during a burglary where to go as she acted as a lookout.
“It doesn’t say specifically which house but it corresponds to the time when the defendant says his house was burglarized,” Curulla said.
One of three additional victims to the abduction also told detectives Finlon, who at one time lived with Cummings, told her about committing a burglary.
“The night before she stated that she, Jordan Finlon, came come over to her house and had money and was looking to buy more narcotics so she had some money,” Curulla said. “She stated that she and Mr. Tuxford had committed a robbery the day before and that’s where she had gotten all the money from.”