Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

Internal probation records obtained by the News4 I-Team showed that two weeks before Michael Cummins is accused of murdering his family and several others, he ran into the woods and hid from a probation officer, but no probation violation was issued.

The records show on April 10, a probation officer came to the Cummins home at 1179 Charles Brown Rd. near Westmoreland for a surprise home visit.

Cummins had been on probation for four months after a series of violent attacks on family and trying to burn down his neighbor’s home.

The records show that Cummins’ grandmother told the officer that he was sleeping but would go wake him up.

The narrative goes on to say that the grandmother returned to say that Cummins ran out the back door and into the woods.

The probation officer then checked with the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office and found there was no outstanding warrants.

The officer then wrote, “It is unknown why he would have ran at this time.”

The record shows 45 minutes later that probation officer and was told by Cummins grandmother that he continued to hide in the woods.

Seven days later, investigators believe Cummins began his murder spree that ended with eight people, mostly family members, dead.

“When you hear that someone has run into the woods, isn't that a major red flag?” asked the News4 I-Team.

“The officers did ask the family members about the offender running into the woods, the family indicated that this was normal behavior for the offender that he often spent time in the woods,” said Alisha James, the assistant commissioner for community supervision.

James said later the probation officer was able to get Cummins on the phone and scheduled for him to come into the probation office.

James said when Cummins failed to show up for the meeting, that the probation office again reached him on the phone to work with him to bring him into compliance.

But records show it would take 16 days for the probation officer to file for a violation warrant.

The next day after he attemped to get that warrant, the bodies of Cummins’ relatives began to be discovered.

“Do you feel, in reviewing how this case was handled, that any mistakes were made?” asked the I-Team.

“The officer was in policy and how he proceeded and, of course, whenever we have incidents like this, we look at our policies and procedures to see make sure we are utilizing best practices across the board,” James said.

James said it’s important to point out that probation officers cannot chase after probationers if they run.

She also stressed that if on the day that Cummins hid in the woods, if there was any indication that he was an immediate threat to his family, that the probation officer would have called in a sheriff deputy to assist.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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