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    Murder by suicide: Linda Cummings’ brother asks for ‘small act of decency’
    • July 6, 2024

    Paul Broadway credits Linda Cummings, his older half-sister, with making him a kind, loving and responsible adult. We stayed in touch after he wrote me a sweet thank you card after I wrote a series in The Register in 2005 about her case.

    Editor’s note

    Former Orange County Register reporter Larry Welborn covered Linda Cummings’ story from 1974 until his retirement in 2014 and still pursued the truth in the following years. He wrote about it in the new book “Murder by Suicide: A reporter unravels a true case of rape, betrayal and lies,” which is available on Amazon. This is part six of a seven-part series.

    Part one: 50 years ago, Linda Cummings died and the pursuit of the truth started

    Part two: Search for evidence leads to more heartbreak

    Part three: After 31 years, an arrest is made

    Part four: Judge’s ruling a ‘gut-punch’

    Part five: Serial killer and a book raise questions

    Part seven: Coming Sunday

    In late 2019, I phoned Paul to ask if her misleading death certificate bothered him as much as it bothered me.

    “Hell, yeah, it does!”

    At my suggestion, Paul contacted Irvine attorney Michael L. Fell, Orange County’s foremost legal expert on victims’ rights. Mike spent 18 years as a prosecutor before starting his own criminal defense firm in 2009.

    He is also a rarity in the defense bar because he will not take on cases of would-be clients accused of violent crimes against others, no matter how much they offer to pay.

    Fell was perfect to help Paul Broadway restore his sister’s legacy.

    “I’ll help you in any way I can,” Fell vowed when we all met in his office.

    Fell harvested my “murder book” for documentation and support in preparing his arguments. He noted that Stevens told detectives during a 2006 interview that he would reclassify the death certificate to homicide on the “slightest (new) evidence” that Linda Cummings was murdered.

    Well, together, we identified 17 reasons why he had no doubt Linda was murdered, each reason sufficient on its own to satisfy the “slightest evidence” threshold.

    “The current determination of ‘undetermined’ is a vague word written by an indecisive man and it clearly does not define or do justice to what really happened … in Apartment 8 of The Aladdin,” Fell wrote in a letter to Dr. Anthony Juguilon, the chief forensic pathologist of Orange County.

    The letter appealing for an official reclassification of Linda’s cause of death to “homicide” was dated Jan. 31, 2020 – almost to the day 46 years after Linda Cummings was found dead.

    The heart of Fell’s formal request was provided in a letter from Paul attached to the lawyerly appeal:

    “My sister Linda did nothing to deserve the way her life ended in that dingy apartment on 17th Street in Santa Ana,” Paul wrote.

    “She does not deserve to have her legacy denigrated by the false narrative of being officially accused of taking her own life on her death certificate. She deserves to have the record corrected to have the real cause of death.”

    He called such an official change a “small act of decency” that must be done “because she was robbed of everything else.”

    “Linda was a loving and caring person. She was loved by her friends, family and workmates. She was young, attractive, and she had a bright future ahead of her. The future was a shared future with our family.”

    But “that future was cut short,” he said in his letter, “by a monster who took her dignity and life” and then spread the Big Lie that she took her own life.

    “She was raped, hung nude and then misrepresented by a monster who had no empathy or appreciation for how good she was.

    “She will never have any children to love as she loved me. She will never find her great love and get married. She will never live up to the great things that she was striving for. She deserves so much better.

    “The line on her death certificate (stamped) ‘undetermined’ is a personal affront.”

    He concluded: “Please give Linda the decency of having the correct cause of death on her death certificate, and not the false and demeaning determination that was engineered by her killer.”

    •••

    A 1966 Santa Ana high school graduation photo of Linda Cummings. (Courtesy of the Cummings Family)

    Flowers lay on her gravesite at the El Toro Memorial Park in Lake Forest on Saturday, June 6, 2020. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    As former Orange County Register reporter Larry Welborn, left, looks on, Paul Broadway, center, half brother of Linda Louise Cummings, kisses his wife Marcia, at Cummings gravesite at the El Toro Memorial Park in Lake Forest on Saturday, June 6, 2020. At right is Larry Yellin, formerly with the district attorney’s office and now a superior court judge. Cummings death in 1974 was listed as a suicide. Largely due to work done by Welborn, her death was changed to a homicide. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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    The COVID-19 pandemic closed or slowed government operations for the next few months, leaving us in suspense about how a review committee would respond. It appeared there was no precedent anywhere in the region for changing a death certificate that had been issued nearly a half-century earlier.

    But then in April 2020, Jugilon convened a panel of vested detectives and prosecutors.

    A sheriff’s official described the stark facts: a naked young woman, hanging in a noose with a non-slip knot behind her neck and tied off on opposite sides of the room. Senior Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy, the head of the homicide prosecution unit, noted that the coroner’s investigator in 1974 had relied on misinformation provided by the killer that the victim had been suicidal and was treated for mental problems – all of it part of an elaborate lie.

    Dr. Juguilon called the evidence overwhelming. Linda Cummings was a homicide victim, he said, and her death certificate would be changed to so reflect.

    “We righted a wrong,” he told me when I interviewed him later, underscoring that the revision was an easy call. “I hope this brings Linda’s family some peace, because I know it’s been haunting them for a while.”

    I was with Mike Fell in his Irvine law office when he called Paul to break the news “One of the best calls I’ve ever made in my life,” Fell said.

    Paul Broadway was elated, calling it “the best thing to happen to this family in 50 years.”

    One of the best days in a journalist’s life, too.

    Coming Sunday, part seven: A gathering to commemorate some justice for Linda Cummings.

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    ​ Orange County Register 

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