Norfolk Man Found Not Guilty in Murder Trial of ODU Student Chris Cummings


Nicholas Clark

The former home of Christopher Cummings, a ODU student who was killed in what is believed to be an attempted burglary in June of 2011.

By Justice Menzel, News Editor

Javon Doyle, a suspect in the death of ODU student Christopher “Chris” Cummings, was acquitted of all charges on Feb. 2, following a Norfolk jury’s two hour deliberation process.


Cummings was killed in what was suspected to be an attempted burglary on the evening of June 10, 2011, in an off-campus rental home he shared with his friend, Jake Carey. Cummings died on the scene, but Carey survived despite being shot several times in the hand, shoulder, neck, and back. 


The case was cold for over ten years, until four suspects were charged with Cummings’ murder in August of 2021: Ahmad Watson, Kwaume Edwards, Rashad Dooley, and Javon Doyle. Both Watson and Edwards’ cases were dismissed with prejudice after “mishandling” by state prosecutors. 


Jovan Doyle was the first suspect to take his case to trial. He waited over a year in the county jail system, and paid bond shortly before his Aug. 24th trial last year, which ended with a hung jury. A retrial for Doyle was rescheduled for the following year, and began this past Wednesday on Feb. 1. 


Cummings’ roommate, Carey, recalled the evening of the murder at the retrial. He heard a number of men come up the stairs of their house after kicking down the front door, followed by yelling in Cummings’ room that ended with two gunshots. After the house went silent, Carey opened his door and ran downstairs to find Cummings’ bloodied body. He watched a tall, dark man run out their front door before receiving gunfire and passing out. 


A fraternity brother and neighbor of Cummings testified for the prosecution that he was “80-90% sure” that he saw Doyle run out of the house. The neighbor had previously selected Doyle out of a police lineup one year after the murder. 

The 2021 mugshot of Rashad Dooley, who will be sentenced later this month for a guilty verdict. (Photo credit to the Norfolk Police Photo Department)


The prosecution’s only other evidence was testimony from one of Doyle’s cellmates. He said that while the two of them were watching a news broadcast on Cummings murder, Doyle made a finger gun motion at the television and boasted of killing the man. The defense insinuated that the cellmate was lying to receive a sentencing deal from the prosecution, who refuted, stating that the only benefit was knowing he did “the right thing.”


The defense also provided testimony from forensic experts who concluded that Doyle’s DNA was not found anywhere at the scene of the murder. 


Prosecuting Attorney Ramin Fethi lamented, “Strong cases lead to guilty pleas. Tough cases go to trial, and in Norfolk we are not afraid to try the tough ones. We believed that the evidence proved Mr. Doyle’s guilt, and we believe that Mr. Carey and the Cummings family deserved closure and their day in court. While we are disappointed in the verdict of the jury, we are grateful for their thoughtful service to the community.”


The fourth suspect, Rashad Dooley, fled the courtroom in Sept. during the reading of his guilty verdict for conspiracy to commit murder and burglary. He was arrested shortly after and will be facing sentencing within the month.