Tiffany Cole Murders Elderly Neighbors

Tiffany Cole is a woman from Florida who was sentenced to death for the murder of her elderly neighbors.

Tiffany Cole, Alan Wade and Michael Jackson would decide to rob Cole elderly neighbors. Tiffany Cole would pose like she needed help and Wade and Jackson would force their way into the home and kidnap the elderly neighbors.

The elderly neighbors were forced into the trunk of a vehicle and driven to a series of ATMS. The elderly neighbors were murdered and buried in a shallow grave

Tiffany Cole would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death

  • Tiffany Cole would be resentenced to life without parole in August 2023

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Tiffany Cole

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Where is Tiffany Cole now

Tiffany Cole is currently incarcerated at the Lowell Annex in Florida

Tiffany Cole Court Case

In 2007, “Tiffany Cole was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping, and two counts of robbery for the 2005 murders of James and Carol Sumner.” Cole v. State, 36 So. 3d 597, 599 (Fla. 2010). On appeal, this Court set out the facts of the crimes:

The evidence presented at trial established that on the night of July 8, 2005, Tiffany Cole and codefendants Michael James Jackson, Bruce Kent Nixon, Jr., and Alan Lyndell Wade robbed, kidnapped, and murdered the victims. At trial, the evidence primarily consisted of codefendant Nixon’s testimony, Cole’s taped interview with Homicide Detective David Meacham of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO), and Cole’s in-court testimony.

Tiffany Cole was the only codefendant who knew the victims. The victims were friends with and previous neighbors of Cole’s father before the victims moved from the Charleston, South Carolina, area to Jacksonville, Florida. The victims also had recently sold Cole a vehicle and informed her that she was welcome at their home if she was ever in Jacksonville. The plan to rob and murder the victims evolved from knowledge that Cole already had about the victims and that she obtained from the victims in the weeks prior to the crimes.

Tiffany Cole and Jackson met and became involved in a personal relationship two months before the crimes. During that two-month period, Cole and Jackson often traveled together. In June 2005, Cole and Jackson went to Jacksonville, Florida, to visit Jackson’s friend Wade. During this visit, Cole contacted the victims, and Cole and Jackson stayed one night at the victims’ home. During the visit, Mrs. Sumner informed Cole that she and Mr. Sumner had recently sold their home near Charleston, South Carolina, and had profited $99,000. Following the initial trip to Jacksonville and additional trips between Charleston and Jacksonville, Cole, Jackson, Wade, and Wade’s friend Nixon developed a plan to rob the victims. At the time of the crimes, Cole and Jackson were twenty-three years old and Wade and Nixon were eighteen years old. The victims were in their early sixties but were both in poor health and especially frail.

In preparation for the robbery, Nixon stole four shovels to dig a hole. From a rental agency in South Carolina, Tiffany Cole had previously rented a Mazda RX–8, which she used to transport the group. Two days before the murders, Cole, Jackson, and Wade picked Nixon up in the Mazda. The group drove around until they selected a remote location—in Georgia, just across the Florida state line—to dig a large hole. While Cole held a flashlight, Jackson, Wade, and Nixon dug the hole, which was approximately four feet deep and six feet square. The group left the shovels at the hole when they completed the excavation. Nixon testified that in the two days after digging the hole, the foursome drove around discussing “what [they] were going to do” and “how [they] were going to do it.” He stated that the foursome planned the robbery together and that Cole was the one who knew the victims and who “set everything up.” The group initially did not know whether they would enter the Sumners’ home while the victims were home and kidnap the victims or wait until the victims were away from their home. Nixon testified that Cole knew when the victims would be away from their home for a doctor’s appointment. The foursome ultimately decided that they would kill the victims. Nixon testified that Jackson informed the others that he would kill the victims at the grave site by injecting them with a lethal dose of medication.

On the night of the crimes, July 8, 2005, Cole and her codefendants purchased duct tape and plastic wrap. Tiffany Cole wrote a personal check for these items. Later that night, Cole drove the foursome to the victims’ home. Initially, Cole and Jackson remained outside in the rented Mazda. Wade and Nixon knocked on the door, and when Mrs. Sumner responded, Wade asked to use her telephone. After Mrs. Sumner allowed Wade and Nixon into her home, Wade ripped the telephone cord from the wall. Nixon held the victims at gunpoint with a toy gun, took the victims to a bedroom, and bound them with duct tape. After Wade and Nixon contacted Jackson through Nextel two-way radio phones—which the group used to communicate throughout the course of the crimes—Jackson entered the victims’ home. Jackson and Wade then searched the victims’ home for bank account records. Cole drove down the street and waited in the Mazda. Eventually, the victims were taken to their garage and forced into the trunk of their Lincoln Town Car. Tiffany Cole drove back to the victims’ home in the Mazda after Jackson called her. Jackson placed a trash bag containing some of the victims’ belongings in the Mazda’s trunk and got into the Mazda. Wade and Nixon then drove the victims’ Lincoln to a gas station to refuel it, and Cole and Jackson followed in the Mazda.

The foursome, with the victims in the Lincoln’s trunk, then drove to the remote Georgia location where they had previously dug the large hole. Upon arrival, Tiffany Cole remained with the Mazda at the edge of the road, while her codefendants drove the Lincoln into the woods to the hole. At some point, Nixon joined Cole at the road. The evidence shows that only Jackson and Wade were present at the hole when the victims were put into the hole and buried alive. When Jackson returned from the woods to the Mazda, Jackson had the personal identification number (PIN) for the victims’ automated teller machine (ATM) card. The foursome drove both cars from the grave site to Sanderson, Florida, where they wiped down the Lincoln and abandoned it. The foursome then left in the Mazda, with Cole driving.

The group next stopped at an ATM in Jacksonville, from which Jackson withdrew money from the victims’ bank account. The group then retired to a motel. Later that night, after purchasing Clorox and gloves, Tiffany Cole and Wade returned to the victims’ home. The evidence shows that at that time Cole and Wade took the victims’ computer from the home. Subsequently, Cole pawned Mrs. Sumner’s rings and the victims’ computer.

On July 10, 2005, Rhonda Alford, Mrs. Sumner’s daughter, reported to the JSO that she had been unable to contact the victims for several days. That same day, Officer Vindell Williams of JSO spotted a Lincoln Town Car in Sanderson that was later determined to be the victims’ Lincoln. On July 12, 2005, Homicide Detective David Meacham of the JSO responded to the victims’ home to investigate. In their home, he saw a bank statement that showed a large sum of money in the victims’ bank account. After contacting the bank, he learned that during the past few days there had been an unusually large amount of ATM withdrawals—totaling several thousand dollars—from the victims’ account.

Later on July 12, Detective Meacham learned that someone claiming to be Mr. Sumner had contacted the JSO. Detective Meacham returned the call. The person claiming to be Mr. Sumner was later identified as codefendant Jackson. As Mr. Sumner, Jackson asked Detective Meacham to assist him in accessing his bank account;  by that time Jackson was apparently having trouble accessing the account. As Mr. Sumner, Jackson explained that he and Mrs. Sumner had left town quickly to attend Mrs. Sumner’s sister’s funeral in Delaware. When Detective Meacham asked to speak to Mrs. Sumner, Cole posed as Mrs. Sumner and pretended to be tired and ailing. Detective Meacham contacted the bank and requested that it continue to allow access to the victims’ account so that Detective Meacham could continue his investigation.

Since Detective Meacham suspected that he was not actually speaking to the Sumners, he contacted United States Marshal David Alred to assist in tracking the cellular telephone number used by the callers. The cell phone was registered to Jackson and had been used near the victims’ home around the time of the victims’ abduction. The cell phone records also showed calls to a South Carolina rental car company. Detective Meacham contacted the company, which indicated that it had rented a silver Mazda RX–8 to Tiffany Cole and that the car was overdue. Using the rental car global positioning system, law enforcement officers determined that the Mazda had been within blocks of the victims’ home on the night of the murders.

As Detective Meacham continued to investigate the victims’ disappearance, Jackson continued to withdraw money from the victims’ bank account. Jackson made multiple ATM withdrawals from the victims’ bank account between the early hours of July 9 and the night of July 13, 2005. Photo surveillance captured Jackson making several of these withdrawals. Cole drove Jackson to the ATM machines in the rented Mazda;  the Mazda could be seen in some of the surveillance photographs.

Detective James Rowan of the North Charleston Police Department testified that he found the rented Mazda in the parking lot of an abandoned office building near the rental company. Detective Rowan went to Cole’s residence near Charleston, South Carolina, and David Duncan, Cole’s brother, led Detective Rowan and other officers to the nearby Best Western Hotel where Tiffany Cole, Jackson, and Wade were staying. Two rooms were rented to Cole. At the motel, officers found and arrested Tiffany Cole, Jackson, and Wade. The police obtained a search warrant for the motel rooms. In the motel room where Cole and Jackson were staying, police found the victims’ South Carolina driver licenses, credit cards, checkbook, mail, and papers indicating the victims’ America Online account and passwords, social security numbers, and birthdates. In the same room, police found what appeared to be a new laptop computer and bags of new merchandise. Additionally, officers found photographs showing Cole, Jackson, Wade, and another female, who was uninvolved in the crimes, “partying” in Myrtle Beach before the crimes. The victims’ ATM card was found in Jackson’s back pocket. In the motel room where Wade was staying, police found a key ring that belonged to the victims. The victims’ coin collection was found in the trunk of Cole’s car.

Detective Meacham testified that he drove to Charleston immediately after learning that Cole, Jackson, and Wade were apprehended. A recording of Detective Meacham’s July 14, 2005, interview of Tiffany Cole was played for the jury. In it, Cole admitted that before the crimes she had gone to Myrtle Beach with Jackson, Wade, and another female uninvolved in the crimes. Tiffany Cole stated that the group stayed in a hotel room, “[s]pending money up there, partying up there.” She stated also that on the return trip from Myrtle Beach, the group stopped at a flea market, where Wade and Jackson purchased pocketknives and BB guns that appeared to be real firearms. Cole admitted that she knew that Jackson, Wade, and Nixon were going to the victims’ home to steal things such as credit cards. Cole also admitted that she spent the victims’ money after the murders and impersonated Mrs. Sumner during the telephone call with Detective Meacham.

Codefendant Nixon was also arrested. Nixon revealed to law enforcement officers the location where the victims were buried, and on July 16, 2005, the victims’ bodies were discovered. Nixon testified that he understood that because of his guilty plea that he could receive a sentence between fifty-two years and life imprisonment without parole. Nixon understood that he would not be sentenced until after testifying against Wade. (Nixon had previously testified against Jackson.)

Dr. Anthony J. Clark, Medical Examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, performed autopsies on the bodies and testified that both of the victims died as a result of mechanical obstruction of the airways by dirt. Essentially, the victims were buried alive and asphyxiated from the dirt particles smothering their airway passages.

Tiffany Cole Resentencing

A jury voted 10-2 to spare the life of a woman convicted in Jacksonville’s notorious “buried-alive” case in 2005, according to Times-Union news partner First Coast News.

The jury found co-defendant Tiffany Ann Cole did not deserve the ultimate punishment for her role in the crime. She is now sentenced to life in prison.

Cole, 41, was previously convicted of murdering Reggie and Carol Sumner in July 2005. The 61-year-olds were kidnapped from their Jacksonville home, bound in duct tape and driven to some remote woods in South Georgia where they were buried alive.

Cole knew the couple, who were friends with her father and once lived in her neighborhood

Her original 2007 death sentence was thrown out in 2017 after Florida began requiring unanimous jury verdicts in death cases. Cole’s first jury was split 9-3. While her resentencing was in process, however, the law changed again. Florida juries can now sentence someone to death with a vote of just 8-4.

During closing arguments, attorney Jay Plotkin, the original case prosecutor, told jurors they should hold Cole accountable for the carefully premeditated “horrible acts.” He noted Cole held the flashlight as her three co-defendants dug the “death pit” two days before the murders.

“While she may not have turned a shovel of dirt from the hole where the Summers were left to die, she was certainly an instrument — and I would submit the catalyst — of why Reggie and Carol Sumner died. Simply stated, these murders would not have happened but for her.

Plotkin said she deserved death even though her boyfriend and co-defendant Michael James Jackson was the mastermind. “What evidence is there that she was dragged kicking and screaming into the dark night of crime by Michael Jackson?” he asked. “The only people dragged into the night of the crime were the people killed in that hole.”

Cole’s attorney Julie Schlax argued she has changed since her arrest and has been an inspiration to other inmates.

“Tiffany Cole is not ‘the worst of the worst,’” she said. “I submit how she has lived her life and truly found an ability to overcome those shortcomings that led her to Georgia in the middle of the night.”She reminded jurors about extensive witness testimony that Cole suffered from low self-esteem, early drug abuse and had been molested by her father.

“Does it excuse it? Of course not, Schlax said. “None of us will ever forget what happened to the Sumners in 2005. And nor should we. Tiffany Cole won’t forget either. There will not be a day of her life that she spends behind bars [not] thinking about what occurred in 2005, and what led her to be a part of that. But Tiffany Cole is so much more than that. And she actually has the ability to contribute. We ask you not to judge her solely for her actions of 2005.”

Schlax noted Cole would die in prison regardless, and that a life sentence is a sufficient punishment.

Cole’s co-defendants Jackson and Alan Lyndell Wade were already resentenced. Wade was given a life sentence last year; Jackson was resentenced to death in May. A fourth co-defendant, Bruce Nixon, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for cooperating with investigators.

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