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First trial in 2011 ODU murder case scrapped after judge dismisses all charges against one of the suspects

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Posted at 8:22 PM, Jun 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 01:24:00-04

NORFOLK, Va. - The first trial for a decade-old cold case will no longer take place after a judge dismissed all 15 felony counts against one of the men accused of killing the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings' nephew.

During a pretrial hearing in Norfolk Circuit Court Friday, the judge dismissed all counts against 33-year-old Kwaume Laray Edwards, according to court records.

Edwards was one of four men arrested in connection with the 2011 murder of Christopher Cummings, 20, who was a student at Old Dominion University. The trial was scheduled to begin Monday.

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Chris Cummings

News 3 investigative reporter Margaret Kavanagh reported that Edwards has been arrested for murder four times in the last 15 years.

Edwards will still have to serve out the remainder of his sentence for a 2014 murder in Hampton. According to Va. Department of Corrections records, he's currently being held at Buckingham Correction Center in Dillwyn, Virginia, and is not scheduled to be released until August 20, 2029.

Norfolk Commonwealth's Attorney Ramin Fatehi issued a statement to News 3 regarding the dismissal:

“We are disappointed that we are unable to move forward with Mr. Edwards’s case. While we respect the pretrial rulings of the Circuit Court, we respectfully disagree with some of them, particularly the Court’s decisions to deny our motion for a dismissal without prejudice and our motion to continue the trial—both of which we believe were in the interests of justice—and the Court’s conclusions regarding our motivations.

However, Virginia law provides no way for prosecutors to appeal these types of decisions, only the defense, and therefore we were left with no viable path forward, leaving a dismissal with prejudice as our only option. We acknowledge that we made procedural mistakes in the case and that we fell short of our standards for ourselves, but we have acted in good faith.

While the case against Mr. Edwards is over, the trials of three other individuals remain pending. I was not involved in the decision of the previous administration to indict the four individuals in this case, a decision made without my input and before I was elected Commonwealth’s Attorney. Prior to the remaining trials, I intend to reexamine the strength of the evidence from scratch.

The individuals pending trial are presumed to be innocent and are absolutely entitled to a fair trial. While I would like to speak more fully regarding this case, I must honor those individuals’ rights and my ethical obligations, and, in the interest of justice, reserve my other comments until those cases are concluded.”

The three remaining defendants are set for trial in August and September.

Javon L. Doyle, a 33-year-old Newport News man, is currently scheduled for a four-day jury trial beginning August 23.

Rashad D. Dooley, 29, of Newport News is scheduled for a four-day jury trial beginning September 7.

Ahmad R. Watson, a 30-year-old from Hampton, is scheduled for a four-day jury trial beginning September 20.

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