While Rickey Donnell Cummings was on his way to death row, one of the fathers of his murder victims was headed to the cemetery to tell his son “we got him.”
Jurors in Waco’s 19th State District Court deliberated about 3 1/2 hours Wednesday before returning a death sentence for Cummings in the 2011 ambush-style slayings of two men at an East Waco apartment complex.
Cummings’ defense attorneys had hoped to spare him the death sentence, telling jurors that the death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst.
Prosecutors countered that the 23-year-old alleged Bloods gang member’s “callous, blood-thirsty” actions, plus an escalating spiral of violence, make him an ideal candidate for execution.
As Cummings was led from court, he smiled at his family members and told them he loved them and to keep their heads up. They said they loved him, too. He flashed a peace sign on his way to jail.
Cummings was convicted of capital murder Friday in the March 2011 shooting deaths of Tyus Sneed, 17, and Keenan Hubert, 20, as they sat in the back seat of a car at the Lakewood Villas apartment complex, 1601 Spring St.
Demontrae Majors, 22, and Marion Bible, 23, who were in the front seat of the car, were wounded but managed to flee to the safety of a nearby apartment.
Surrounded by family members and smiling occasionally, Robert Sneed, Tyus Sneed’s father, remained emotional, as he has been throughout the trial.
“It’s over,” he said. “We got him, we got him, we got him. Now, it’s time to go to Tyus’ grave and tell him we got him.”
Sneed said at least one of his family members was present each day of the 12-day trial.
“My son was innocent,” he said. “It’s not been two years. He’s had two birthdays already. He would be 19. Happy birthday, son.”
The soft-spoken Sneed told Cummings, “May God have mercy on your soul” in his victim-impact statement after the sentence was read.
Hubert’s father, Artemus Matthews, had a different, anger-laced message for Cummings, whom he called a coward in his courtroom statement.
“I hope they kill you over and over and over,” Matthews said, taking note of Cummings’ tattoos. “You must like needles. They’ve got one waiting for you down there. . . . You’re going to come home in a body bag.”
Prosecutors say tattoos on Cummings’ back are associated with the Bloods street gang, and a defense prison expert testified Tuesday that Cummings would be identified as a Bloods member when he got to prison because of the numerous gang-related markings.
Cummings and his family members denied he was in a gang, saying the tattoos represent his home in East Waco.
Cummings testified during the first phase of the trial that he was dealing drugs several blocks away when the shootings occurred.
He said he was spotted at the complex because he rushed there after hearing a description of the car involved and feared it was his brother’s car.
After the trial, several of the victims’ family members said Cummings’ case should be a life lesson for those considering joining a gang.
“There will be no wanna-be Rickey Cummings after the lethal injection,” said Tyus Sneed’s aunt, Boreshio Jackson.
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, who tried the case with assistants Michael Jarrett and Greg Davis, praised the prosecutors, investigators and staff for “helping bring justice for these victims and their families.”
“We are extremely pleased with the jury’s verdict and careful consideration they gave this case,” Reyna said. “Also, we are pleased that we were able to achieve justice for the families of Tyus Sneed and Keenan Hubert as well as Marion Bible and Deontrae Majors.
“Rickey Cummings’ pattern of escalating violence and brutality were choices that he made. This jury’s verdict sends a strong message that violence in McLennan County will be met with firm justice and the utmost consequences.”
For Davis, a seasoned prosecutor who formerly worked in Collin County, Cummings marks the 20th capital murder defendant he has put on death row. He told jurors in closing statements that Cummings has a “wicked, corrupt and callous mind.”
“He is not like us,” Davis said. “He is wicked and beyond redemption. He is a man without excuses and he is here because of his own actions.”
Before the jury went out to deliberate, Davis told them, “May God guide you and may he give you the courage to do what needs to be done.”
Hunt said after the trial he was disappointed and a little surprised by the death sentence because he thought the state had not met its burden in proving that Cummings deserves to die.
In arriving at its decision, jurors answered three special issues: that Cummings would be violent in the future; that he caused the deaths or intended to kill or anticipated that a life would be taken; and that there was not sufficient mitigating evidence to warrant a sentence other than death.
The jury also had the option of sending Cummings to prison for life with no chance for parole.
Court officials and a host of courthouse deputies made jurors inaccessible after the trial. One juror reached at home by phone declined comment, and two others did not return messages.
Cummings’ mother, Elma Richards, said her family will contact the Innocence Project because they think he is not guilty. She also denied her son is a gang member.
“My baby is innocent. He did not do this,” she said.
She said Cummings is staying strong for his family during the ordeal, while they remain supportive of him.
“He came in with a smile, and he walked up out of here with a smile,” she said.
Cummings’ younger brother, Darvis Cummings, Albert Love and Kennedy Hardway also are charged in the shooting deaths.
Reyna has announced his office also will seek the death penalty against Love, but no trial date is set.
Hubert and Sneed each were shot eight times, and the car they were in had at least 20 bullet holes in it, including rounds from an AK-47-style assault rifle.
Tribune-Herald staff writer Kirsten Crow contributed to this story.