Among the questions that emerged after seven bodies were discovered in Sumner County on Saturday was why the suspect wasn’t already in custody.
Michael Lee Cummins had a long criminal history and was on probation for another crime at the time of the murders.
Cummins had pled guilty to attempted arson and aggravated assault last summer. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the arson and another six years for the assault. But he was released in January, put on a decade of supervised probation, and ordered to have a mental health evaluation.
So why did he get out of jail so soon?
Cummins took a plea deal. The office of Sumner County’s district attorney agreed to give Cummins a suspended sentence and credit for the time he had already spent in jail awaiting trial, plus another 180 days. It amounted to one year and five months.
On Cummins' probation order by the court, however boilerplate, the language makes it clear they don't think he will commit another crime: "The defendent is not likely to engage in a criminal course of conduct and that the ends of justice and the welfare of society do not require that the Defendant shall presently suffer the penalty imposed by law by incarceration.
When asked by WPLN why he approved Cummins' release, Judge Dee Gay, who presided over the case, kept his comments strictly to court proceedings.
“On July 19, 2018, Mr. Cummins chose to accept a settlement agreement with the District Attorney’s office,” Gay said in a statement.
He added that in light of the new charges, Cummins will be held without bond until a probation violation hearing.
When reached for comment on Cummins’ early release, Sumner County District Attorney Ray Whitley said "there is no way to predict human behavior."