State Rests In Cummings Capital Murder Trial

Ricky Donnell Cummings in court.
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WACO (October 26, 2012)--In a surprise move the state rested its case Friday morning in the Ricky Donnell Cummings capital murder trial and the judge dismissed the jury until Tuesday.

Cummings, 23, is on trial for capital murder in the March 2011 deaths of Keenan Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, both of whom died in a hail of bullets as they sat inside a car parked at Lakewood Villas apartment complex.

Marion Bible, then 22, and Deontrae Majors, then 20, were wounded in the shooting.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Defense attorney Russ Hunt, Sr., said he was "very surprised" and his co-counsel, Walter S. "Skip" Reaves said it was "totally unexpected."

Later in his chambers 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother said he had expected the state to rest late Friday or possibly early Monday and he, too, was caught by surprise when prosecutors ended their case before noon on Friday.

District Attorney Abel Reyna refused comment on the state's decision to close its case.

The judge dismissed jurors and told them to return to the courtroom on Tuesday, citing a need to allow the defense to prepare to present their case.

The last state's witness, Chantal Hart, testified she saw a "long gun" lying in the back seat of Ricky Cummings car as the maroon Impala drove down Dallas Street on the day of the murders.

She testified that her cousin hailed the driver and when the car stopped her cousin went over to the vehicle, and then called her to take a picture.

Hart looked in the backseat and saw “this big gun,” which she said was more than three-feet long.

Her cousin got in the back seat and posed with the gun as Hart used her cell phone to take a picture.

The image was showing on the screen in the courtroom when prosecutors dismissed Hart and said they were resting their case.

In earlier testimony Friday morning, a young man who asked that his name not be disclosed testified he saw a capital murder defendant smoking marijuana just minutes before a shooting that claimed the lives of two men and heard the defendant say he was about to shoot someone.

U.S. Marshals asked the media not to reveal the identity of the young man, who was visibly shaken on the witness stand, as he explained he lives near the murder scene and on the day of the shootings, he heard Cummings say, "I'm gonna shoot somebody", just before the gunshots started.

The witness testified he was in an apartment at Lakewood Villas when Cummings came inside and smoked marijuana with other men who were inside, including his girlfriend's father.

He testified he watched as Cummings got a call on his cellular telephone and then Cummings left the apartment.

About 20 minutes later, the young man said, he heard gunshots.

Earlier in the morning retired Dallas Homicide detective Kenneth LeCesne, who is now records custodian of Metro PCS Cell phone company, testified about cell phone records keeping and provide reports to law enforcement and attorneys when they request records.

The weeklong trial has been marked by outbursts from families of both the defendant and the victims that resulted in the arrest of Cummings' uncle Thursday after a judge signed a warrant charging him with retaliation against a trial witness.

John Dwayne Richards, 36, uncle of Ricky Donnell Cummings, was ordered held without bond in the McLennan County Jail after U.S. Marshals and McLennan County Sheriff's deputies arrested him just after noon on Thursday.

Richards' arrest came after a man threatened a witness in Cummings' capital murder trial Wednesday night, authorities said.

On Thursday morning when the witness prepared to leave her house to go to the courthouse, she found her car's tires slashed, which is one of the reasons the start of the trial was delayed.

Officers began searching for Richards after the arrest warrant was issued and found him in the parking lot of the H-E-B store in Bellmead.

The start of testimony in Cummings' trial was delayed Thursday not only because the witness's car was vandalized, but also because a medical examiner who was also scheduled to testify Thursday was stuck in traffic on Interstate 35.

A third witness was delayed because she was having difficulty finding a babysitter for a child with cerebral palsy.

When the trial finally resumed late Thursday morning, jurors heard testimony from a woman whose apartment Cummings and a second man entered after the deadly shooting.

She said Cummings used her bathroom and then went to her kitchen where he washed his hands in the kitchen sink with dishwasher soap.

Her granddaughter, who lives with her, echoed her testimony and said she saw Cummings and second man she identified as Albert Love in the apartment and then outside. She testified that Cummings asked to use her phone.

Albert Leslie Love, Jr., Tyrece Edward Richards, Darvis Tyrell Cumings, and Kennedy Wayne Hardway, who's also known as Kevin Wayne Hardaway, were also indicted in the shooting, but prosecutors later dismissed the capital murder charge against Richards.

Ricky and Darvis Cummings and Tyrece Richards are brothers. Kennedy Hardway is their cousin, authorities said, and the four are closely associated with Albert Love.

Prosecutors also questioned a Waco High School student who was playing basketball at Hood Street Park in 2010, on the day Cumming's friend Emuel Bowers III, 21, was shot as he sat in his car at the intersection of Rose and McKeen Streets.

Prosecutors say Hubert and Sneed were killed because Cummings suspected Hubert was involved in Bowers' murder.

The high school student testified Thursday that he heard a gunshot and saw someone run away.

He said Cummings later approached him twice, made him get in his car, and asked him what he knew about the Bowers shooting.

He also testified Thursday that he saw Cummings at the scene of the double murders in 2011 and offered the same description of what Cummings was wearing as two previous witnesses-a white T-shirt and shorts.

Thursday afternoon medical examiner Dr. Jill Urban, who was delayed by traffic on the Interstate, testified about the autopsies she performed on the two victims at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Science.

She showed graphic photographs of the gunshot wounds that killed the two victims and then prosecutors brought in a life-size mannequin and used dowels to connect entrance and exit wounds in order to show the trajectory of the shots.