Tiffany Cole, along with three co-defendants, was convicted of the kidnapping and first-degree murder of a Florida couple, Carol and Reggie Sumner.
A Trusted Friend
Tiffany Cole knew the Summers. They were a frail couple that had been her neighbors in South Carolina. She had also bought a car from them and had visited them in their home in Florida. It was during one of those visits that she learned that they had sold their South Carolina home and made a $99,000 profit.
From that point on, Cole, Michael Jackson, Bruce Nixon, Jr., and Alan Wade began plotting a way to rob the couple. They knew that gaining access to their home would be easy since the Summers knew and trusted Cole.
On July 8, 2005, Cole, Jackson, Nixon, Jr., and Alan Wade went to the Summers' home with the intention of robbing and killing the couple.
Once inside the home, the Summers were bound with duct tape while Nixon, Wade, and Jackson searched the home for valuables. They then forced the couple to their garage and into the trunk of their Lincoln Town Car
Nixon and Wade drove the Lincoln Town Car, followed by Cole and Jackson who were in a Mazda that Cole had rented for the trip. They were headed to a spot located right across the Florida line in Georgia. They had already picked out the spot and prepared it by digging a large hole two days earlier.
When they arrived Jackson and Wade led the couple into the hole and buried them alive.
At some point, Jackson had forced the couple to tell him their personal identification number for their ATM card. The group then abandoned the Lincoln and found a hotel room to stay in for the night.
The next day they returned to the Summer's home, wiped it down with Clorox, stole jewelry and a computer which Cole later pawned. Over the next few days, the group celebrated their crime by spending several thousand dollars that they got from the Summer's ATM account.
On July 10, 2005, Mrs. Summer's daughter, Rhonda Alford, called authorities and reported that her parents were missing.
Investigators went to the Summer's home and discovered a bank statement which showed a large sum of money in it. The bank was contacted and it was learned that an excessive amount of money had been withdrawn from the account over the past few days.
On July 12, Jackson and Cole, posing as the Summers, made a call to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. They told the detective that responded to the call that they had left town quickly due to a family emergency and they were having problems accessing their account. They were hoping that he could help.
Suspecting that they were not really the Summers, the detective contacted the bank and asked them not to block any withdraws from the account so that he could continue his investigation.
He was then able to track the cellular telephone that the callers used. It belonged to Michael Jackson and records showed the phone had been used near the Summer's home at the time that they disappeared.
There were also several calls made to a car rental company who was able to provide the detective with a description of the Mazda that Cole had rented and which was now overdue. By using the global tracking system in the car, it was determined that the Mazda had been within blocks of the Summer's home on the night that they went missing.
On July 14, the entire group, with the exception of Cole, was caught at a Best Western Hotel in Charlestown, South Carolina. Police searched the two hotel rooms that were rented under Cole's name and found personal property belonging to the Summers. They also found the Summers' ATM card in Jackson's back pocket.
Cole was caught at her home near Charlestown after police got here address through the car rental agency where she rented the Mazda.
Bruce Nixon was the first co-defendant that confessed to murdering the Summers. He provided the police with the details of the crimes that were committed, how the robbery and abduction were planned and the location of where the couple was buried.
Dr. Anthony J. Clark, Medical Examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation performed autopsies on the Summers and testified that they both died after being buried alive and their airways passages became blocked with dirt.
Cole Pleads Her Case
Cole took the stand during her trial. She testified that she thought that the crime would be a simple theft and that she did not knowingly participate in the robberies, kidnappings, or murders.
She also said that she was at first unaware that the Summers were in the trunk of their Lincoln and that they were being taken to the pre-dug gravesite. She then said the holes were dug in order to scare the Summers into giving up their ATM PIN numbers.
Conviction and Sentencing
On October 19, 2007, the jury deliberated for 90 minutes before finding Cole guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, on both premeditation and felony-murder theories, two counts of kidnapping, and two counts of robbery.
Cole was sentenced to death for each murder, life imprisonment for each kidnapping, and fifteen years for each robbery. She is currently on death row at the Lowell Correctional Institution Annex
Wade and Jackson were also convicted and sentenced to two death sentences. Nixon pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.