Tiffany Cole

Last updated
Tiffany Cole
Tiffany Cole.jpg
Born
Tiffany Ann Cole

(1981-12-03) December 3, 1981 (age 41)
Criminal status Incarcerated
Conviction(s) First degree murder (2 counts)
Kidnapping (2 counts)
Robbery (2 counts)
Criminal penalty Death; commuted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole
Date apprehended
July 2005

Tiffany Ann Cole (born December 3, 1981) is an American convicted murderer who was found guilty of the kidnapping and first-degree murder of a Duval County, Florida husband and wife and sentenced to death. Also found guilty in the case were three men: Alan Wade; Bruce Nixon; and Cole's boyfriend, Michael Jackson. Prosecutors said Cole and the three men developed a plan to kidnap and kill the couple to steal their money, and dug a grave for them in Charlton County, Georgia, two days before knocking on their door and asking to use the phone. [1] As of February 2015, Cole was the third youngest woman on death row in the United States; [2] she was 26 at the time of her conviction.

Contents

Crime

Tiffany Cole was a familiar face to Carol and Reggie Sumner since her family had been neighbors to the 61-year-old couple in South Carolina. When the Sumners moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in March 2005, they sold a car to Cole. Cole agreed to make monthly payments and often drove to Jacksonville with friends.

In June 2005, Cole and her new boyfriend, Michael James Jackson, [3] drove to Jacksonville to complete the paperwork on the car. While there, they stayed at the Sumner home. While staying with the couple, Jackson began hatching a plan to rob the couple and steal money from their bank accounts. [4]

In early July 2005, Tiffany Cole, Michael Jackson, and two other men, Alan Wade and Bruce Nixon, drove to the Sumners' home. Wade and Nixon went to the door and asked to use the phone. Wade carried duct tape, while Nixon carried a lifelike toy gun. Once they were let in, Nixon produced the lifelike gun and the Sumners were bound, gagged, and blindfolded with duct tape. Wade and Nixon proceeded to search for personal financial documents in the residence, before calling Jackson for assistance in finding ATM information. He was unable to locate the PIN numbers. The Sumner's were taken outside where Wade and Nixon locked them into the trunk of their Lincoln Town Car, still bound and gagged.

In addition to the keys to the Sumner's town car, the group took items including Reggie‘s coin collection, mail, and bank records. Wade drove the Lincoln with the Sumners in the trunk with Nixon as a passenger. Cole and Jackson were in the Mazda, which Cole drove. The two cars then drove across the border to a remote part of Georgia to the pre-dug grave. As none of them had anticipated the Lincoln might need fuel, Wade had to stop for gas at a station en route. They did however anticipate the possibility of law enforcement appearing and had planned for the Mazda to get deliberately pulled over for speeding if the police got too close to the Lincoln.

Once in Georgia, Wade and Nixon drove the Lincoln into the woods. Cole remained at the roadway with the Mazda. The Lincoln was then backed up to the grave. There was an apparent momentary disquiet as to who was going to do what, but when the Lincoln‘s trunk was opened, it was discovered that the duct tape binding the Sumners had loosened and that they were moderately mobile. They were hugging each other.

Jackson instructed Nixon to bind them again and to replace the duct tape, which Nixon did. Nixon then went to the roadside to be with Cole. Wade and Jackson remained at the gravesite with the Sumners. Though there is no direct evidence of exactly what happened, the Sumners were placed together into the grave, still alive, and the grave was filled in. Wade and Jackson then drove the Lincoln away. By that point, Jackson had a yellow pad containing the PIN numbers to the Sumner‘s bank accounts. According to the Medical Examiner, the already frail Sumners were buried alive. They suffered a slow and torturous death from the weight of the soil being built up around them and inhaled into their lungs until they lost consciousness and died. [5] [6] [7]

Cole subsequently pawned jewelry and other items stolen from the Sumners' home, [8] and the ATM card was used to obtain more than $1000 in cash. Three of the group were tracked back to a hotel in South Carolina by the use of the ATM card and arrested there. After being arrested Nixon willingly led police to the Sumners' grave.

Conviction

At Cole's week-long trial in October 2007, the jury deliberated for less than 90 minutes before finding her guilty of first-degree murder. [9] They voted 9-3 that she should receive the death penalty. [6] Evidence included photos of Cole and two co-defendants in a limousine, celebrating with champagne and hands full of cash.

Five months later, a judge handed down two death sentences for the murders, and a sentence of life in prison for the kidnappings. She awaited execution at Lowell Correctional Institution Annex. [10]

Cole was one of three women currently on Florida's death row, the others being Margaret Allen and Tina Brown, each sentenced to death in unrelated murders. [11] [12] Of the previous 14 women ever sentenced to death in Florida, two were executed (in 1998 and 2002).

Wade and Jackson also received death sentences. Nixon, who had led police to the bodies and testified against the others, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

In 2017, the Florida Supreme Court ordered new sentencing hearings for Cole, Wade, and Jackson, because their juries had not unanimously recommended the death penalty. [13] A 2016 U.S Supreme Court ruling, Hurst v. Florida , found that Florida's prior law permitting non-unanimous jury verdicts in death penalty cases violated the Sixth Amendment, [14] prompting Florida to resentence more than 150 convicted felons. [15] [16] In June 2022, Wade was resentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. [17] In August 2023, Jackson was resentenced to death. [18] Cole was resentenced to life without parole on August 23, 2023 [19] after the jury voted 10-2 in a 3 hour deliberation to spare her life.

Documentaries

Due to the brutality and notoriety of the case and the fact that one of the perpetrators was a young woman later sentenced to death, the case has been the subject of several TV documentaries. Including the second season, third episode of Your Worst Nightmare, and an hour-long interview of Tiffany Cole and Emilia Carr with Diane Sawyer for 20/20 in 2015 and Wicked Attraction, "Good Deeds Punished" in 2010, and an episode of MrBallens YouTube channel/podcast where he dives thoroughly into the case and the killers.[ citation needed ]

See also

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