JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Tiffany Cole was a familiar face to Carol and Reggie Sumner. She bought a car from the 61-year-old couple and was a neighbor when they used to live in South Carolina. But it was this familiarity that Cole -- along with Alan Wade and Michael James Jackson -- used to allegedly plan their crime.
Carol Sumner's daughter, Rhonda Branson, suspected something was wrong when her mom and stepfather didn't return her calls. Her suspicion heightened when she drove to Jacksonville from her Charleston, S.C., home and found the Sumners' family dog inside the house -- without food and the owners nowhere to be found.
Even before the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office held a Friday evening news conference to announce that it had arrested 18-year-old Bruce Nixon on charges of robbery, abduction and murder, Branson knew it must have been the couple's kindness that did them in. When police traveled to Charlton County, Ga., early the next morning to unearth the bodies of a man and woman believed to be the Sumners, Branson's suspicions seemed to hold true.
Now, Nixon is behind bars, and Cole, Wade and Jackson will be formally charged upon extradition. The latter three are currently charged with credit card fraud in Charleston.
Family members of the Sumners said they've been told that Cole, Wade and Jackson would make frequent trips to and from Jacksonville to give the Sumners the rest of the money they owed for the car, and to pick up the ownership title.
A neighbor told family she remembers seeing a strange car come and go in the Sumner's driveway. The family said the couple was probably just being nice by allowing the group to stay over so they wouldn't have to make the drive back to Charleston on the same day.
As for Nixon, it is not certain how he came into the picture, and police aren't revealing that information, other than to say he was friends with some, if not all, of the South Carolina suspects.
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