Co-defendant gets death in buried-alive slayings

Alan Lyndell Wade

The third of four people convicted in the murder of a former Ladson couple found buried alive was given the death penalty in Florida this week.

Alan Lyndell Wade, 20, showed no emotion as Circuit Judge Michael Weatherby on Tuesday sentenced him to die for his role in the July 2005 killings of Carol and James "Reggie" Sumner.

"This court has had a hard time in coming up with a manner of death that could be more heinous, atrocious or cruel, or more painful and vile," Weatherby said, according to the Florida Times-Union newspaper. "Perhaps watching oneself set aflame would be worse."

Wade and his co-defendants kidnapped the couple from their Jacksonville, Fla., home in a scheme to drain their bank accounts, police said. The kidnappers forced the Sumners, both 61, into the trunk of a car and drove them to a remote spot in Georgia, where they were buried alive in a pre-dug grave.

Bruce Nixon, 20, who led authorities to the victims' grave, was sentenced to 45 years for his role. He testified against his three co-defendants and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Weatherby already has sentenced the reputed mastermind of the crime, 25-year-old Michael Jackson, to death. A jury also has recommended death for the final co-defendant, Tiffany Cole, 26. She will be sentenced today.

If Weatherby agrees to the death-penalty recommendation for her, Cole would become the only woman currently on Florida's Death Row, according to media reports.

In court, Carol Sumner's daughter asked Weatherby not to sentence Wade to death. She also had asked for leniency for Nixon, saying the two had been manipulated by Jackson and were too young and on drugs at the time of the murders.

"They were used in the worst way," said Rhonda Alford of North Charleston. "Solving two deaths with more deaths does not make me happy," she said, while admitting her view was in the minority of what was felt by other family members.

Police made arrests in the case after tracing Wade, Jackson and Cole to a North Charleston motel following their use of the Sumners' bank cards.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at skropf@postandcourier.com or 937-5551.