Retired couple, Reggie and Carol Sumner were only 61 years old when they died. Carol and Reggie met in high school but it wouldn’t be until later in life when they would fall in love. After serving time in the Navy, Reggie got married and found work with the railroad. Carol also got married and had children of her own.
Carol was unlucky in love as her first marriage ended in a divorce. Her second husband was extremely abusive. Forty years passed before Reggie and Carol met again and rekindled an interest in each other. In 2000, Reggie was working at a cable television company when a phone call came in. Carol was on the other end of the line. The schoolmates began a long-awaited relationship and soon started spending all of their time together. A year later they got married.
They first settled down in Ladson, SC before making the move to Jacksonville, FL. Reggie suffered from diabetes and finally decided moving to Florida would be the best for his health. Carol agreed and they began preparing for the move. They sold their Chevrolet Lumina to Tiffany Cole, the stepdaughter of a neighbor who lived just down the street. She started making monthly payments to the Sumners for the vehicle.
Tiffany Ann Cole knew the Sumners as they were neighbors in South Carolina. The couple offered her a place to stay if she was ever in the Jacksonville area. Cole and her boyfriend, Michael Jackson, traveled to Jacksonville to visit their friend Alan Lyndell Wade, and the Sumners happily agreed to give them a place to sleep.
During their stay, the Sumners had mentioned selling their South Carolina property for $99,000. This is when the plan to commit a crime started to form. Jackson took note of the belongings and furnishings that they had in their home and began plotting a robbery.
Initially, he considered the idea of breaking into the home while the couple was away, but shortly the plan evolved into killing the couple.
In June of 2005, Wade rented a car to drive to Jacksonville to visit his friend Bruce Kent Nixon. He told Nixon he had plans to rob someone but didn’t give any details at that time. Two days before the murders, it is alleged that all four members of the group got together to prepare.
Nixon had stolen shovels from around his neighborhood for them to use. They drove across state lines into Georgia and chose a largely remote, wooded location to dig a hole. The group also purchased tools they would need such as disposable gloves, plastic wrap, duct tape, and a toy gun.
On July 8th, the group left in the rental car, a Mazda RX-8, around 10:00 p.m. and drove to the Sumner home. While Cole and Jackson waited in the parked vehicle, Wade and Nixon knocked on the door and Carol answered. Under the ruse of needing to borrow her phone, the two entered the home and aimed the toy gun in their direction.
The couple was terrified, dressed only in pajamas, and weak from failing health. Carol had been undergoing treatments for liver cancer and Reggie was wearing an ankle brace. They had no way of fighting off their attackers.
Jackson entered the home to assist in the robbery and started searching for any important financial statements. Reggie owned a coin collection which was also taken. Wade and Nixon then directed the Sumners to get into the trunk of their own Lincoln Town Car. Jackson and Wade drove the Lincoln into the woods where the pre-dug hole was waiting.
After forcing the victims out of the car, they obtained the PIN to the couple’s bank account. Then they were killed.
Cole and Nixon were waiting up the road in the Mazda. The foursome drove the Sumner’s vehicle to Sanderson, Florida where they removed all evidence by wiping down the surfaces inside of the Lincoln and leaving the car there, with the shovels still inside the trunk.
On July 10th, Rhonda Alford, Carol’s daughter, called the Jacksonville sheriff’s department to report that she hadn’t heard from her parents recently. When law enforcement arrived to check on the couple, they noticed the car was missing and dinner was left on the stove. Detectives began investigating and two days later found the abandoned Lincoln Town Car.
Back in Jacksonville, the four killers found an ATM and withdrew money from the Sumner’s bank account. That evening they stayed in a hotel, but not before returning to the home and stealing a computer and jewelry they had left at the scene. They spent the night celebrating in a limousine, taking selfies with the stolen goods, and flashing cash and bottles of champagne.
During the course of the investigation, detectives received a call from Jackson, posing as Mr. Sumner, where he told police that he and his wife had gone to Delaware and were having difficulties using their bank card. When police asked to speak to Mrs. Sumner, Cole answered the phone. As she pretended to be Mrs. Sumner, the detectives started to triangulate the suspects’ calls.
Financial records revealed the ATM withdrawals and one of the security cameras captured Jackson’s face with the Mazda behind him. GPS and the Mazda rental directed police to South Carolina, where three of the defendants had fled. Tracking the bank account activity, police were led to a motel where the group had been hiding out since the murders.
Police apprehended Wade, Cole and Jackson in the South Carolina hotel room on the 14th of July. Inside the room, they found Carol’s car keys, a suitcase containing the Sumner’s financial documents, and receipts for items purchased using the murdered couple’s money. They also discovered driver’s licenses belonging to Reggie and Carol, as well as their credit cards and chequebooks.
Items stolen from the couple’s home were pawned off. Only $1,000 in cash was withdrawn from the ATM. It was discovered that $8,000 had been made payable to Wade from the Sumners’ bank account.
In Cole’s car, police found Reggie’s coin collection and while searching the Mazda, which had never been returned to the rental agency, found a magazine addressed to the victims with Wade’s fingerprint on it. A roll of plastic wrap was also found with fingerprints on it belonging to Cole and Jackson.
On the 15th of July, Nixon was also located and taken into custody. He agreed to lead officers to the missing victims. An excavation was performed by law enforcement. A roll of duct tape used during the commission of the crime was found nearby.
Trial and Verdict
Bruce Nixon pled guilty to second-degree murder and testified against his co-conspirators. As he had been the one to take investigators to the gravesite, he was sentenced to 45 years in prison. The other two men, Michael Jackson and Alan Wade, received death sentences for their roles in the crimes.
Tiffany Cole was the sole connection between the victims and all four of their murderers. She was responsible for bringing her friends to the scene of the crime. Her trial took place in October of 2007 where the jury found her guilty of first-degree murder, but could not come to a unanimous vote on the death penalty. The judge sentenced her five months later to life in prison for the kidnappings and two death sentences for the homicides of the Sumners.
During her trial, Cole stated that she had only agreed to the theft and was unaware of the plot to kidnap and murderl.
Cole testified that Jackson was the one who pushed the couple into the grave after retrieving their bank PIN. Prosecutors emphasized to the jury that Cole was in fact in attendance when Wade, Jackson, and Nixon dug the hole in Georgia.
It is alleged that not only was Cole was present when the grave was dug two days prior to the murder, but that she even held a flashlight to assist her co-defendants. Circuit Judge Michael Weatherby points out that Cole also participated in shopping for the crime supplies and impersonating Mrs. Sumner on the phone to detectives.
Her defense attorney insisted that Cole was controlled by Jackson, who was believed to be the mastermind for the entire series of events that fateful night. The jury deliberated and their verdict was 9–3 for the death penalty. On the 6th of March, 2008, Tiffany Cole was sentenced in Duval County for the role she played in the double homicide. She was taken to Lowell Correctional Institution where she sits on death row.
Alan Wade, sentenced to death for the robbery, kidnapping, and murder of the Sumners, was featured on an episode of the reality tv show, Love Don’t Judge, where it was revealed that he had met a woman online and was now married with a child.
The woman, Sigrid, was writing to inmates from death row when she met Wade and sparked a romantic relationship through their letters. Despite knowing what Wade was in prison for, Sigrid married him and somehow managed to get pregnant, though conjugal visits are not permitted at Union Correctional Institution where he is being held.
The 39-year-old mother, who is originally from France but now lives in the state of Florida, was interviewed on the show about the struggles of being married to a death row inmate and raising a child without a father.
A year after they began corresponding, Wade proposed while Sigrid was visiting him at Florida State Prison. She says her family and friends do not approve of her relationship and many people in her life have disappeared since the marriage. Sigrid and Wade are only allowed to talk on the phone once a month. She frequently sends him videos of their son.
“People stigmatize you just for being in a relationship with me. But I know people who judge you that way are a waste of skin anyways.”
— Alan Wade to his wife, Sigrid
The Sumner’s children admitted that they were hoping for closure with the conviction of their parents’ murderers, but even after sentencing, the pain remained. The loving couple, who found each other late in life and were finally able to experience happiness, had shown only hospitality and kindness to their killers.
This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.