Motive for slaying a mystery Man killed student over pen, police say

August 27, 1993|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County homicide investigators said they probably will never know why an Arnold man killed a college student in an argument over a dime-store pen early Wednesday, then drove to Virginia, put the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.

"There was nothing traumatic going on in his life," said Det. Keith Williams, a county police homicide detective who handled the case. "The case is closed, and I don't think we will ever have those answers."

Thomas Joseph Cummings, 24, shot Charles Hottel Willis, 21, of Severna Park, 10 times inside the Dunkin' Donuts shop in the 600 block of Ritchie Highway at 3:15 a.m. Wednesday.

Leaving the pen behind, Mr. Cummings, a 1986 graduate of Severna Park High School who was to begin attending classes as a junior at the University of Maryland next month, drove to Virginia. He called his parents from a pay phone and told them what he had done before shooting himself in the head with the same 9mm semi-automatic handgun he used to kill Mr. Willis.

Police said Mr. Cummings' criminal record consisted of one drunken driving arrest.

"Witnesses inside the shop told us that he did not appear to be drunk," Detective Williams said.

Mr. Willis, of Smugglers Cove in Severna Park, had been out for the evening with friends, and visited the doughnut shop with two friends after having been at a local bar. According to police accounts of the shooting, Mr. Cummings borrowed Mr. Willis' pen several times, to take notes at a pay phone.

After Mr. Willis, a sophomore at the University of Vermont, refused to sell the pen, Mr. Cummings called him over to his table, took the handgun out of his waistband and shot him five times. He then pointed the gun at Mr. Willis' friends, who ducked under the table. Mr. Cummings, police said, turned and shot Mr. Willis five more times while yelling: "I want that pen."

Police later found the pen in Mr. Willis' pocket. Although witnesses reported that Mr. Cummings wrote something down, Detective Williams said police did not find any notes. He is also unsure whether Mr. Cummings called anyone from the shop.

"No one has come forward and said they talked to him that night," he said.

Detective Williams also said he didn't know where or with whom Mr. Cummings was during the hours before the shooting. Mr. Cummings' parents told him they did not notice anything unusual about their son's behavior.

"It seemed to be a generic evening at the Cummings home," he said.

Funeral services for Mr. Cummings are scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Annapolis. Services for Mr. Willis are scheduled for 11 a.m. tomorrow at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park.

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