Friends remember killer and victim at funerals

August 29, 1993|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

Friends remembered the good things about Thomas J. Cummings yesterday. They told stories about the toddler who would stand up in his crib and call to his mother, "I'm up." They remembered the day, as a young enlisted man in the Navy, he came home sporting an eagle tattoo -- much to his mother's chagrin.

But nobody could explain why Mr. Cummings, 24, would kill another young man over a cheap ballpoint pen, then drive to Norfolk, Va., and turn the gun on himself.

"There isn't a psychology book written that can explain why this happened," the Rev. Patrick McGarrity said after the 9 a.m. Mass at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Annapolis for the man who killed himself Wednesday morning after gunning down a 21-year-old college student in a Severna Park doughnut shop.

As about 150 mourners were leaving Mr. Cummings' funeral, the man he killed was being eulogized a few miles up the Severn River in Anne Arundel County.

Sobs and occasional soft laughter filled the sanctuary of Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park as Charles H. Willis was remembered as a small boy wanting to help build a house, as a teen-ager who often didn't heed his friends' advice and as a young adult who wanted to learn about everything from rock climbing to harpooning whales.

Mr. Willis "loved to travel," said longtime family friend Rick Sargent, adding, "The trip that [Mr. Wilgent, adding, "The trip that [Mr. Willis] has made, the reservations were made a long time ago."

The two strangers' lives converged inside a Dunkin Donuts shop in the 600 block of Ritchie Highway about 3:15 a.m. Wednesday. Mr. Willis had gone to the shop with two friends. Mr. Cummings was there alone.

Mr. Cummings had borrowed Mr. Willis' pen at least twice. According to police, Mr. Cummings offered Mr. Willis $2 for it, but Mr. Willis said no, explaining the pen had sentimental value.

Mr. Cummings beckoned Mr. Willis to his seat. As he approached, Mr. Cummings stood up, took out a 9 mm Browning semi-automatic handgun and fired five shots. After pointing the gun at others in the shop, he fired at least five more shots into Mr. Willis before walking out of the shop in what witnesses described to police as a "cool and calm" manner.

He drove to Norfolk, calling his parents several times from public phones to tell them what he had done. Minutes after a Virginia state trooper spotted him on Interstate 64 heading toward Virginia Beach, he pulled off at an exit and shot himself in the head.

During yesterday's services, both men were described in many of the same ways: generous, kind, fun-loving.

Mr. Cummings "was an engaging young man, very generous and loving," Father McGarrity said. "He had the deepest sense of repentance and desire to punish himself more than anyone else could."

A letter written by several of Mr. Willis' friends was read at his funeral. "If you are listening, for once listen to what we have to say," it said. "We all love you and miss you very much. I hope you can see how many people care about you. I can't wait to see you again."

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