Medical Examiner: Missing Couple Buried Alive

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Georgia medical examiner's office confirmed Wednesday that the bodies of a man and woman found in a shallow grave in Charlton County, Ga., last weekend are those of a disabled couple missing since July 8. The medical examiner has determined that Carol and Reggie Sumner, both 61, were buried alive.

Jacksonville sheriff?s officers conducted a search of the suspected burial site, just north of the Florida-Georgia line, early Saturday morning after speaking with a suspect who told them where the bodies were, according to police.

On Friday, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrested Bruce Nixon, 18, on charges of robbery, abduction and murder. Nixon, of Macclenny, Fla., was one of several "persons of interest" being questioned by police.

Three additional suspects being held on credit card fraud in Charleston, S.C., are awaiting extradition. Police believe Alan Wade, Tiffany Cole and Michael James Jackson are connected.

"The motive of this abduction appears to be robbery," Assistant Chief Rick Graham said.

Police believe the victims knew some of the suspects, though Graham said none were related to the Sumners. Police also do not consider this crime to be a random act of violence.

An off-duty officer found the couple's 1993 Lincoln Town Car July 12 in Sanderson, Fla., and an extensive search was conducted by authorities near the Sumners' home in St. Nicholas and near the area where the car was recovered.

The couple's daughter, Rhonda Branson, of South Carolina, called police July 10 when she was unable to reach her parents by telephone. Branson drove to Jacksonville, where she found the couple's dog inside the house. She also found food on the stove, and the couple's medication and cell phone still in the house.

The medical examiner's report labeled the Sumners' cause of death as "mechanical asphyxiation."

There is still no decision on whether the case will be prosecuted in Florida or Georgia.

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