Hate Takes a Life in Houston

"I planned on sending him to hell," suspect said of victim.


July 26, 2007 — -- Gay rights activists are furious about the jailhouse claims of a Texas man charged with killing a gay male flight attendant last month.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, murder suspect Terry Mangum, 26, admitted to the murder and said that he had no remorse over the crime, implying his victim got what he deserved.

"I believe with all my heart that I was doing the right thing," Mangum told the Houston Chronicle. "I planned on sending him to hell."

Mangum, who described himself as "definitely not a homosexual," said in the interview that he'd been called by God to "carry out a code of retribution" against a gay man because "sexual perversion" is the "worst sin."

Kenneth Cummings Jr., 46, was the subject of a massive manhunt after he disappeared early last month. His charred remains were discovered buried on a Houston-area farm reportedly owned by Mangum's grandfather. Mangum admitted to stabbing Cummings to death after luring him from a bar.

Cummings' family told ABC News' Law & Justice Unit that it had been shattered by the murder of a man it described as a gentle, loving son and a doting uncle to his nieces and nephews.

"Life will never be the same," the victim's father, Kenneth Cummings Sr., said. "He was a great big part of the family. I'm going to miss a lot of things about him, but I think I'll probably miss the most is that his mother and I would often meet him for lunch and he'd wait for us at the house and when we pulled up he'd come bounding out of the house to greet us. He never missed a birthday. He never missed flowers for my wife on Mother's Day, Easter lilies on Easter Sunday."

"He was a good boy," Cummings Sr. said.

"This is outrageous," said Mel White, a gay former evangelical Protestant minister, who ghostwrote books for televangelists Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham.

"You've got to indict everybody from [Pope] Benedict XVI on down. The church and the Christian right have set up an environment that gays are a threat to the community, and they say this over and over," White said to ABC News.

White says that his book "Religion Gone Bad: Hidden Dangers From the Christian Right" has 450 footnote references to anti-gay rhetoric from Christian leaders like the ones he used to work for.

"And because some people take this seriously, you have murders like this," White said. "This guy is quoting from the rhetoric of the pope and Pat Robertson and the Southern Baptists."

Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne declined to comment on the case, citing a gag order issued by the judge in the case. A source close to the case said Yenne plans to charge Mangum with a hate crime, which could lessen his chances of parole if convicted. Mangum is being held on $500,000 bond.

Mangum's attorney, Perry Stevens, also declined to comment directly on the case for the same reasons.

But Stevens asked that "Everybody respect that there are two families going through this, that are going through a lot. We also need to respect what the Constitution has set out in terms of our citizens rights."

Court documents obtained by ABC News appear to indicate that Mangum wasn't as straightforward with detectives as he was with the Houston Chronicle.

Pearland police Detective Jon Matherne said in an affidavit that he obtained a search warrant for Mangum's home after cell phone records showed that the last call the victim had made was to Mangum.

"Terry [Mangum] stated that he first met Kenneth Cummings at E.J.'s bar in Houston," the affidavit states. "Terry said that he followed Kenneth back to his home in Pearland, where they continued to party and drink. Terry said that before he left, Kenneth gave him his wallet, credit cards, car keys, checkbook and cash and told him to go have fun. Terry initially said that his boots got muddy from doing yard work for his mother. When that story was explored he said that he lied and made that story up because he was scared. He said that he borrowed a shovel from his landlord so that he could go dig for mushrooms in the woods. The landlord confirmed that Terry borrowed a shovel."

"Terry initially stated that Kenneth was never in his vehicle, but when he was confronted stated that Mr. Cummings did jump in his trunk and laid there in a joking manner. Terry also had cuts on his thumbs, which he stated were from doing gardening work for his mother but then said that story was a lie … during the course of the investigation Terry admitted that he had just killed an old acquaintance with a knife and buried the body. A criminal history check on Terry revealed that he just recently got out of prison for burglary."

Cummings Jr. was a veteran flight attendant who worked for Southwest Airlines for a quarter century, starting as one of the first male flight attendants the airline ever hired.

"He was [a] law-abiding, honest tax-paying citizen," said his mother, Martha Cummings. "He owned a beautiful home. He had a nice portfolio of investments, had a good retirement plan."

"He helped other people. Anybody in the family who had any problems, he was there in heartbeat to help."

The couple said that their son was particularly fond of his sister Lori Frank's children, and was in the process of setting up college funds for the two young kids when he was killed.

"Anytime he went out of town, he brought my kids back a little something," Franks, 40, told ABC News. "His friend told me that when they were waiting to board the plane coming back from a vacation in [Las] Vegas recently, he went running back down the runway, and his friend said,' You're going to miss the plane!'Ken said, 'No, no I gotta get the kids something, I gotta get the kids something.' They were just getting old enough [for him to take them] places. He took them to the rodeo."

"He was looking forward to taking them to Disneyland," she said.

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