Chris Cummings: A long wait for justice

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) -- It was a death that stunned the ODU community. A popular student, shot dead in his home. Nearly six years later...nothing. Norfolk police have not identified any suspects in the death of Chris Cummings.

Chris was a rising junior at Old Dominion University, studying pre-law. Friends and family described him as popular and spontaneous. Now those closest to him are asking the public for help and sharing never before heard details about the night Chris died.

"Every morning I go into my son's room before I go to work and I say a prayer for him, and I go to Baltimore every weekend where he's entombed and I go to his grave most of the time and I say a prayer for him. It just never gets easier," says Chris's father, James Cummings.

No matter how many how many days pass since Chris died, time seems to stand still for his father, James, and his mother, Rosa.

"They took my heart and they took my soul. They took everything. My life totally, totally changed," says Rosa. "Christopher is on my mind every day, every day, for the past five years."

It was the early morning hours of June 10, 2011 when someone shot Chris Cummings and his roommate, Jake Carey, in their house on 42nd street. Chris was killed, Jake survived.

Rosa remembers Chris's girlfriend calling her around 9:00 in the morning.

"She said, 'Well, Christopher got shot.' I lost it. I passed out because I was confused."

When Rosa came to she thought, "Okay, so he got shot. So he's in the hospital somewhere. Never in a million times would I have thought that my son was already dead. When I had the phone call, he was dead for hours already."

In an interview with WAVY.com, Jake Carey says he remembers the day of the shooting very well. It started with a scary situation for Chris. He said Chris had a friend from Newport News over. That friend brought two guys Chris did not know. At some point, one of those guys pulled a gun on Chris and tried to rob him. Eventually, the two guys left without firing the gun. Jake says Chris's friend stayed and apologized to Jake and Chris for what happened.

Watch the extended interview with Jake Carey

Later that night, Jake tried to convince Chris to go out with him.

"I remember as I was leaving he walked out on the porch and he looked really stressed out and I was like, 'Hey man! Why don't you come out with me? Let's go out. There's going to be people there. You're going to know everyone. You're going to have a blast,' and he was like, 'I don't know. I don't really want to.' And I was like, 'Why? What's wrong?' And he was like, 'I don't know, just something's not right.'"

Jake went to the party without Chris. When he got home, Chris was already in bed in his room on the second floor. Jake walked into his room on the first floor and went to sleep. A short time later, chaos began.

"Someone kicked in our front door, and I had the downstairs bedroom which is right next to the front door. When you walk into our house, my door looks kind of like a closet, but really it's a big room…so when they kicked in the front door, I immediately woke up. I heard them run right up the stairs, so obviously they knew where they were going, and I could hear them running up the stairs and I could tell it's more than one person," said Jake.

"They go right to his room and kick in his room which is directly above mine. At this point I hear a bunch of yelling and screaming and just moving around, and then it was quiet and then a bunch of moving around and then a gunshot went off. At that point I, like, immediately sat up in my bed and was kind of, like, scared and didn't really know what was going on, and so there was some more rustling around, and then there was another gunshot.

At this point I didn't really know what to do. So, I had a pocket knife next to my bed, which isn't going to do anything against a gun, and so I grabbed that and started to get out of my bed. Then I heard them come down the stairs. At this point I'm just expecting them to break into my room and come after me and that was going to be it. I didn't really know what was going to happen. Well, it got really quiet…so I waited a few seconds and then I guess they had left and so I walked over to my door and slowly opened it, and as I opened it a tall figure runs right in front of me out the front door. He was just like a tall guy in a white shirt and he just ran right out the front door."

Jake says it was too dark to make out many features on the man.

"All I know is it was a guy who had black hair and he looked like a black male with a white shirt."

What happened next changed Jake's life forever.

"I remember waiting another second and opening the door and then looking down the hallway to see if anybody else was there and then looking out the front door which was still open, and no one was there, and then I see Chris at the bottom of the stairs and he was up against the wall. I could easily tell he had already been shot, and I was like, 'Hey Chris! Chris!' and I said his name, and then I remember I took about two steps and then I got shot. I don't know where from. I don't know which direction. All I remember it being like a strobe light in my face and then just gunshot noises and then everything went black."

Jake had been shot five times. Eventually he came to, got help, and was rushed to the hospital where he learned Chris died. Jake was devastated.

Chris's family was hopeful that police would be able to make an arrest from all of the information Jake gave them. Within a year of the investigation beginning, there was a glimmer of hope.

"The last thing we heard from the police department was that they had a total of three people that they had as far as being persons of interest and at the time I think two of the three were in jail," says James Cummings.

Not long after, James says police informed him of another discovery.

"During one conversation, probably about a year after the murder, (the police) had revealed that they had discovered what car was used, because they believe it was a total of four people. Three who actually went into the house and a fourth who was outside in a car. They said they found the car that was used, parked in the backyard of the one suspect's grandfather, but they could not find any sort of evidence in the car at that time."

James says, "I thought they were going to wrap the case up relatively quickly."

However no arrests were ever made. No suspect information was ever released. As the years go by, the frustration for Chris's family grows…and so does their impatience.

His mother, Rosa, says, "In the past five years, I've been calling all the time, all the time, and I'll tell you why I was calling all the time, because he was my son. I am the only one, the one that worries about him, not them. (The police say) 'No Mrs. Cummings. We're doing, we think we're close. We're doing as much as we can. We're working really hard.' I said, 'I hope so. I'm going to give you the benefit. I'm going to trust you. I'm going to trust you.' The days go by. The days go by. We hear nothing. When I talk to them they say, 'Well, we've got a few things. We are close right now, but we can't discuss anything.'"

Rosa is tired of waiting.

"This is my limit. It's five years and it's five years too long."

The Cummings want to know who killed their only son.

"We want to see some form of action, something, but there's nothing so far," says James. "There's nothing that my wife and I, my family and I, would like more than to see someone brought to justice. I'd like to see this taken to court. I've been working for the last five years, not taking any leave, basically not taking any vacation, in the hopes that this case would go to trial."

James fully believes this will go to trial someday…and if Rosa can help it, it will happen sooner than later.

"I will never, never, never give up," she says.

Norfolk police declined our request for an interview, instead releasing the following statement:

“The homicide of Christopher Cummings remains under investigation. The Norfolk Police Department’s Cold Case/Missing Persons Section has been spearheading investigative efforts and working closely with the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office on the case. Together, both agencies have been reviewing evidence and leads developed during the initial investigation and also reviewing additional evidence developed by the Cold Case/Missing Persons detectives currently assigned to the case. The Police Department and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office are committed to exploring all possible means of charging and successfully prosecuting the person or persons responsible for Mr. Cumming’s death. During the investigation, detectives have been in contact with Mr. Cumming’s family and have updated them with a level of case-related information that would not compromise the integrity of the investigation. To date, no charges have been sought related to the shooting death of Christopher Cummings. Anyone with any information about Christopher’s homicide is encouraged to call the Norfolk Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.”

The Cummings family raised $10,000 for a reward for information that leads to an arrest in this case. Remember, you can also call the Crime Line where you can always remain anonymous and you will never be called to testify in court. That number is 1-888-LOCK U UP. No bit of information is too small.

Previous Coverage

Team Coverage June 13, 2011

Students Hold Vigil on Cummings' Birthday

Coverage One Year After the Shooting

Full interview with Jake Carey

Jake Carey says he remembers the day he was shot -- and his roommate killed -- very well. It was nearly six years ago, and there have been no arrests. Carey recounts how the entire night unfolded.

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