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An Oklahoma bigamist who was convicted of murdering his 11-year-old niece went to the grave proclaiming his innocence — and with blood on the hands of his two sister-wives.
Jessie James Cummings, 52, was executed by lethal injection in September 2008 for stabbing to death his 11-year-old niece, Melissa Moody. The day of the murder, he allegedly also coerced one of his two wives into shooting to death Moody’s mother, Judy Ann Moody Mayo, according to the testimony of his wife, Juanita “Anita” Cummings.
It was never entirely clear to Jessie’s two wives, Anita and Sherry, exactly why their husband wanted them to kill his older sister, according to “Killer Couples” on Oxygen. Jessie was leaving for Oklahoma City on Sept. 4, 1991, and all he told them was that by the time he got back Judy needed to be dead.
“He told them, ‘If you don’t do this, I will kill Anita’s son and tell police she’s the one who committed the murder,’” investigative reporter Lori Tucker told producers.
Fearing for her son’s life, Anita reluctantly agreed. After she shot Judy to death in the living room, she and her co-wife dragged their sister-in-law’s body into the cellar, Sherry told jurors, according to court documents. They then handcuffed Judy’s 11-year-old daughter to the bed and left her there until Jessie got back that night, Anita told jurors.
When Jessie got home, he and Anita disposed of Judy’s body, Anita testified. Jessie then had both of his wives go into the bedroom and unhandcuff and undress his niece. He made them stay in the room while he raped her, Anita alleged.
Cummings then drove the 11-year-old to a rural area, where he molested her again, according to Anita’s testimony, then stabbed her in the chest and slit her throat, according to Oklahoma paper The Oklahoman.
“I knew he had killed her because he had blood all over him,” Sherry testified, according to The Oklahoman.
In July 1994, Anita went to the police saying she was afraid for her life. She told investigators everything she knew. Anita, Jessie and Sherry were then all arrested, J. Reanae Childers, a former senior agent at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, told “Killer Couples” producers.
Anita and Sherry both took plea deals and testified against their husband. Cumming pleaded not guilty when charged with murdering Mayo and her daughter — a story he maintained to the bitter end.
Cummings said that his wives had become lovers and turned against him, the Oklahoman reported. Pointing to the lack of physical evidence against him, he claimed that his wives were the actual murderers, not him, according to a post he wrote on the website Cases of Suspected Miscarriages of Justice, an arm of the non-profit Innocent In Prison Project International.
Although Cummings did succeed in appealing his conviction for Mayo’s murder, he still faced death for the murder of her daughter.
On Sept. 26, 2008, Cummings was strapped to a gurney in the death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, according to United Press International. With his final words, he continued to plead his innocence.
“I love my family. I love my children. I love my gorgeous angel,” he said, according to The Oklahoman. “The justice system let me down in this case. It turned a blind eye to the truth in this. You came here today to see an innocent man die. I forgive everyone involved in this.”
Cummings was administered a lethal injection. It took him approximately six minutes to die, according to the Associated Press.
Anita and Sherry also faced criminal charges. Sherry was sentenced to 35 years in prison with possibility of parole for accessory after the fact and permitting a child to be abused, according to The Oklahoman. Juanita, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole.
For more information on this story, tune in to “Killer Couples,” airing Thursdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
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