‘Not ir­re­deemable yet’

Billy Cum­mer is a vi­o­lent ca­reer crim­i­nal who has spent much of his life in prison. Af­ter his lat­est con­vic­tion for armed rob­bery, he asked to spend the rest of his life be­hind bars. The judge’s re­sponse was a “life-changer.”

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE BUIST The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor

On Dec. 5, Billy Cum­mer stood in front of Jus­tice Toni Skar­ica in a Hamil­ton court­room and made an un­usual re­quest.

AT THE TIME, Cum­mer was 46. With the ex­cep­tion of a cou­ple of months of free­dom scat­tered here and there — some­times earned, oc­ca­sion­ally be­cause he was on the lam — he had spent most of the past 30 years in prison. There’s no mis­tak­ing Billy Cum­mer, that’s for sure. His ap­pear­ance is breath­tak­ing, even by the stan­dards of the sketchy-look­ing crim­i­nal flot­sam that drifts through the John Sopinka Court­house daily.

His shaved skull is cov­ered with tat­toos, in­clud­ing the words “Steel City” inked above his fore­head. It’s his homage to Hamil­ton, his home since about the age of 14.

Tat­tooed gun bar­rels that mimic thick side­burns run down each side of his face. His throat and neck are cov­ered in ink, as are both arms.

More dis­turb­ing tat­toos are hid­den: a few swastikas; “White Power” across his belly; “White Pride” in big let­ters across his back; and “In­sane” across his lower back. He in­sists he’s not a racist or a white su­prem­a­cist and that those tat­toos were youth­ful mis­takes he now re­grets.

Cum­mer has lived a life of near-con­stant, al­most unimag­in­able vi­o­lence since child­hood. On top of that, he be­came a heroin ad­dict in jail.

So one day, Cum­mer says, he hit the teacher with a crow­bar dur­ing class

THAT HE’S SUR­VIVED this long is a mi­nor mir­a­cle. His body is a real-life ver­sion of a kids’ game called Op­er­a­tion.

He has two bul­let wounds — one in his leg, one in his bi­cep — from a failed hit on him. He has nu­mer­ous stab wounds across his torso, a healed-over hole in his rib cage where a tube was in­serted to drain his lungs, and he was once put in a coma.

He has a heart mur­mur, liver dam­age, nerve dam­age to his legs, and holes in his esoph­a­gus from acid re­flux that went un­re­paired for a long time.

“I’m like the cat who has nine lives,” Billy laughs dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view at Mill­haven’s pen­i­ten­tiary, his cur­rent home.

“I’ve been piped, I’ve been stabbed, I’ve been shot, I’ve been poi­soned, I’ve been jumped and I’ve poured so much dirty dope in me, it’s ridicu­lous.”

As he stood be­fore Skar­ica, Cum­mer had just pleaded guilty to armed rob­bery, as­sault and a few other charges. He knew the Crown was seek­ing a sen­tence of 15 to 20 years, which would have been the long­est sin­gle stretch he’s ever faced in­side. Cum­mer de­cided he wanted no part of that. “I’m so in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized, it ain’t funny,” Cum­mer said. “I know how to sur­vive in here and I know the so­ci­ety in here.

“I’m not com­ing out when I’m 65 or 70 years old, try­ing to fig­ure life out. I can’t fig­ure it out now.”

So Cum­mer begged the judge to send him to prison for the rest of his life. Skar­ica’s re­sponse was just as ex­tra­or­di­nary. He said no. “I have seen peo­ple who are ab­so­lutely evil,” Skar­ica told the court, and Cum­mer wasn’t one of them.

The judge gave him 12 years, told him he could be out in six and to use the next few years to fig­ure out how to be a pro­duc­tive cit­i­zen when he’s even­tu­ally re­leased. “You’re not ir­re­deemable yet,” Skar­ica told him. The words struck Cum­mer like a thun­der­clap. “A life-changer,” he now says.

“It was the kind­est words any­body’s ever used on me, es­pe­cially in a court­room,” Cum­mer said.

As he stood there ab­sorb­ing Skar­ica’s words, Cum­mer kept whis­per­ing softly to him­self, over and over.

“I’m not ir­re­deemable. I’m not ir­re­deemable. I’m not ir­re­deemable.”

He al­most seemed amazed, said his lawyer, Larissa Fedak.

“The fact that some­one who is an au­thor­ity, like a judge, told him he’s not ir­re­deemable is go­ing to sit with him, to try to at least make a plan,” said Fedak, who has been Cum­mer’s lawyer for over two decades. “I still think he is re­deemable,” she added. “I think he’s re­ally tired of do­ing the same thing over and over again.”

She calls him one of her favourite clients, a smart, ar­tic­u­late, funny man with a lot of po­ten­tial, de­spite what his ap­pear­ance and vi­o­lent his­tory might sug­gest.

“He’s a sur­vivor,” she said. “Ev­ery part of his DNA is a sur­vivor.

“If we were in a war and there was no food and no homes, no weapons, you would want Billy,” she added. “You’d put him in charge of the fort be­cause he would fig­ure it out.

“And if you were part of his side, he would pro­tect you.”

For the first time, Cum­mer now be­lieves he has a chance at re­demp­tion. Skar­ica’s words, he says, have given him hope.

“I just felt there’s no hope for me,” he said, “and I’m not go­ing to be able to fig­ure out how to change it. Now? I be­lieve I can.”

The odds aren’t great, ad­mit­tedly, but this may prove to be a tale of re­demp­tion like few oth­ers. One day, Cum­mer dreams of vis­it­ing high school kids or kids in trou­ble so he can tell them his story as a cau­tion­ary tale.

Then again, this may prove to be just an­other wasted chance, one of many that have lit­tered Cum­mer’s life. Some of the past vic­tims of his vi­o­lence might ar­gue he’s ei­ther un­de­serv­ing of re­demp­tion or even in­ca­pable of it.

You don’t have to go far to find at least one skep­tic. Cum­mer’s old­est daugh­ter, Ash­ley, scoffs at any talk of re­demp­tion, say­ing her fa­ther is just a ma­nip­u­la­tor.

“Hon­estly, I’m say­ing this from my heart — he’s not go­ing to change,” said the 25-year-old who lives in Hamil­ton. She hopes she’s wrong. “I love this guy so much,” she said, “but at the end of the day, I just know he’s go­ing to die in jail.”

It pains her to say it, but Ash­ley thinks it would be best for ev­ery­one if her dad had got his wish and stayed in jail for the rest of his life.

“Do you know how many peo­ple in this city want to kill him?” she said. “He’s safe in there, so­ci­ety’s safe with him in there.

“At least he has food, he has a bed. He’s good where he is.”


Grow­ing up

BILLY CUM­MER is a bro­ken per­son. Much of the dam­age is self-in­flicted, but not all of it.

Cum­mer grew up in sub­si­dized hous­ing near Lawrence Av­enue East and Kingston Road in Scar­bor­ough.

“Me and my dad, we never ever saw eye to eye,” Cum­mer said. “I was al­ways seen as no good and I was never go­ing to amount to any­thing.”

He says he suf­fered from ADHD and was en­rolled in classes for chil­dren with spe­cial needs.

Around Grades 7 and 8, Cum­mer al­leges he was mo­lested re­peat­edly by a teacher who was later charged with a num­ber of of­fences against other stu­dents.

“That’s when a lot of my trou­ble started,” he said. When he tried to tell his par­ents about the abuse, he al­leges they swept it un­der the car­pet.

“My fam­ily didn’t re­ally re­spond to it like they should have,” he said.

Cum­mer’s par­ents could not be reached for com­ment.

Things didn’t go much bet­ter when he reached high school.

He was hav­ing an on­go­ing dis­pute with one of his teach­ers. He told his fa­ther, and his dad told him that if he didn’t like what was hap­pen­ing, he should do some­thing about it.

So one day, Cum­mer says, he hit the teacher with a crow­bar dur­ing class. That got him kicked out of school.

By that point, around age 14 or 15, “my re­la­tion­ship with my dad was re­ally de­te­ri­o­rat­ing to the point where I re­ally feared him,” Cum­mer said. “He was a big man, like 6 feet 5 inches, al­ways rang­ing from 350 to 400 pounds. I was pretty in­tim­i­dated by him.”

Cum­mer took off to Hamil­ton to live with an ac­quain­tance of his mother. The man sup­pos­edly worked on oil rigs, Cum­mer thought at the time, but he later learned he was a ma­jor player in a no­to­ri­ous Hamil­ton street gang.

“He kept that at arm’s length,” Cum­mer said. “He was in that world but he would keep drugs and stuff like that at a dis­tance from me.”

Cum­mer de­cided he was done with school, so he found a few odd jobs, started liv­ing with some friends around James Street North and then drifted into crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, steal­ing cars.

On the sec­ond night Cum­mer ever spent in jail, he says he watched a tough guy in an­other cell tie up a cell­mate, stuff his clothes full of news­pa­per and light him on fire.

“I re­mem­ber sit­ting there, star­ing, watch­ing the fire and I heard the kid scream­ing,” Cum­mer said. He ad­mits he was scared at the time.

“I’m think­ing ‘Wow, where am I? I don’t want that to hap­pen to me.’”

When he ar­rived at Maple­hurst Cor­rec­tional Com­plex in Mil­ton shortly af­ter­ward, all the in­mates in his block jammed his cell, beat him and stabbed him with pen­cils, test­ing him to see if he would break down or ask to be moved.

At the time, Cum­mer had a black girl­friend and he put pic­tures of her up on his cell wall. “That caused me some prob­lems,” he said.

Some of the black guys on his range didn’t like that and told him to take the pic­tures down. Cum­mer re­fused.

One guy in par­tic­u­lar took of­fence — “built like a body­builder, hit like a truck” — and he be­gan dish­ing out reg­u­lar beat­ings for more than a year that Cum­mer says he just ab­sorbed with­out re­tal­i­at­ing.

Fi­nally, a tough in­mate from Ot­tawa took Cum­mer un­der his wing, told him he’d have to start fight­ing back and be­gan teach­ing him how to lift weights and fight.

On New Year’s Eve — Cum­mer’s not sure of the year, some­where in the late 1980s — he was al­lowed to go home for a few days to visit his par­ents.

As he was head­ing out the door, some of the other in­mates handed him $800 and told him to bring back some drugs. And if he didn’t, he was go­ing to get beaten.

“I’m think­ing, ‘Oh, God, I’m not even gonna be able to get out of the house with my dad. How am I do­ing this?’”

Some­one he knew helped him get a bunch of vials of hash oil and 100 hits of acid. His next ques­tion was how to get them back into jail.

“He said ‘You’ve gotta stick that in your bum.’ I said, ‘I am not stick­ing that in my bum,’ and he said, ‘Well, if you don’t stick it up there, you’ve gotta fig­ure it out.’”

Cum­mer de­cided to make pack­ages of the drugs and swal­lowed them, waited for them to pass through his sys­tem and then he fished them out of his fe­ces.

He was given a cou­ple of the vials and 20 hits of acid as his re­ward. He had them on his bed and the big guy who had been tor­ment­ing him came to his cell to take the drugs. Cum­mer re­fused again. The guy socked him hard in the head.

The in­mate who had been train­ing Cum­mer saw him with a towel wrapped around his swollen head, found out what hap­pened and, frus­trated, told him “‘If you don’t go deal with that, I’m beat­ing you.’

“I’m think­ing in my head, ‘Man, does this night­mare ever stop? Please, just leave me alone and let me do my thing.’”

Cum­mer found his bully tak­ing a shower. He walked in and belted him, and the bully be­gan scream­ing and yelling for help.

“And I was like, ‘What? I’ve been tak­ing beat­ings from you for, like, a year and a half and you’re a cow­ard?’”

With that, a rage was un­leashed in Cum­mer. He be­gan beat­ing his tor­men­tor sense­less un­til other peo­ple had to come in and pull him off.

For good mea­sure, he then went to the cell of the bully’s best friend and beat him sense­less as well.

“Now I feel like a champ,” he said. “Now I’m the big cool kid. ‘You don’t want to mess with Cum­mer. He’s the tough guy.’”

Billy Cum­mer had started his as­cent up the pri­mal peck­ing or­der of the prison world.

The fighter

BY THE TIME Cum­mer was in his early 20s, life set­tled into a fa­mil­iar pat­tern — jail, a short time back on the streets of Hamil­ton, a crime spree, then back to jail.

“It seems like my luck al­ways runs out quick,” he says with a laugh.

Dur­ing the short times he was out, Cum­mer fa­thered three chil­dren in quick suc­ces­sion.

In­side prison, the fights and the vi­o­lence es­ca­lated, and Cum­mer’s rep­u­ta­tion as a fear­some fighter grew. He was mak­ing a name for him­self. His work­out regime gave him a chis­elled, im­pos­ing physique to match.

“You’re al­ways pre­par­ing your­self for vi­o­lence,” he said, “and I al­ways seemed to have put my­self in the po­si­tion of be­ing at the cen­tre of it.

“I’m just al­ways stupid,” he said. “I’m like a mag­net.”

The fights are an in­cred­i­ble adrenalin rush while they’re hap­pen­ing, Cum­mer said, but they’re also fright­en­ing, es­pe­cially if you’re on the los­ing end.

“You won­der how far that per­son is go­ing to take

it on you,” Cum­mer said. “Be­cause you don’t know if that per­son is go­ing to want to take it to the point of killing you.

“There are just some peo­ple who don’t give a s--t,” he said. “When I did my first bit in the pen, I got to a point where I didn’t even care. “If we had a beef, I was go­ing in for the kill.” Around 1993, Cum­mer dis­cov­ered that some­one he cared about had be­come ad­dicted to drugs. Some­thing in­side him snapped.

He says he de­cided from that point for­ward he’d stop com­mit­ting crimes against busi­nesses and ran­dom peo­ple, and in­stead he’d ex­act vengeance against drug dealers in Hamil­ton.

He says he started with one dealer who was sup­ply­ing crack to the per­son close to him. Cum­mer found him, tied him up and beat him with a base­ball bat. He says he then tar­geted other dealers, ba­si­cally dar­ing them to go to po­lice and re­port the as­saults. Fi­nally, one did, and Cum­mer was sent to Kingston Pen­i­ten­tiary for two years, his first stint in a fed­eral max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison.

Cum­mer didn’t last long at KP the first time. When a sex of­fender was brought onto his range, Cum­mer wel­comed him by burst­ing into his cell and beat­ing him.

Cum­mer was trans­ferred to nearby Collins Bay In­sti­tu­tion, and he was go­ing to be put in 1 Block. He was ec­static.

“At the time, it was con­sid­ered glad­i­a­tor school,” he said. “That’s where the who’s-who were, and if you want to make a name for your­self, this is where you come.

“Yeah, I’m go­ing to 1 Block,” he re­calls think­ing. “They’re go­ing to know who the f--k I am.

“And sure enough, they knew who the f--k I was. Like a big fool, I played right into the games and got caught in all the crap.”

While he was in Collins Bay, Cum­mer al­leges, he learned that his three chil­dren, all un­der the age of five at the time, had been found by a cab driver one night at 3 a.m. in the park­ing lot of Cen­tre Mall.

They had been left in the care of a 12-year-old babysit­ter for an ex­tended pe­riod of time, Cum­mer al­leges, and the babysit­ter be­came over­whelmed. “I wanted to kill the world,” Cum­mer says. The mother of the three chil­dren did not re­spond to re­peated re­quests for com­ment.

Cum­mer says that pe­riod of his life was a cru­cial test for him, and he failed mis­er­ably.

“I was too much of an idiot,” he said. “I was too self­ish and ig­no­rant to get my s--t to­gether to man up and be a fa­ther.

“That’s when I should have said, ‘You know what? Time to grow up and put your big boy pants on and be the fa­ther you’re sup­posed to be and that you say you want to be and do what­ever it takes to be that fa­ther.’ But I didn’t.

“I was, like, ‘OK, I’ll go and com­mit crimes and fend for my kids.’ I al­ways put it in my head that you’re not go­ing to get caught, you’ll get the big one and move on and re­tire,” he said. “But that never ever hap­pens.

“I was just a not-too-bright kid that was sex­u­ally abused at a young age and then ran the streets to try to fig­ure life out. Then I just con­tin­ued that through­out my life.

“All I did was keep dig­ging my hole deeper and deeper and giv­ing me a vi­o­lent record — mak­ing me un­con­trol­lable and un­de­sir­able in the law’s eyes and all the eyes around me,” he said.

Over 35 con­vic­tions

MILL­HAVEN, KP, Collins Bay, Guelph Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre, the Lind­say su­per­jail — Cum­mer cy­cled from one prison to the next.

“What do we all want? A nice fam­ily, a job, a car, a house,” said Larissa Fedak, his long­time lawyer. “I saw over time that whole idea slip­ping away from him.

“He just barely be­lieved it when I first met him — and that was over 20 years ago — but he lost it over time. “He just closed the door on it slowly,” she said. She sees the ex­ag­ger­ated ink­ing of his body as a mask he uses to hide his vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

“He’s cre­ated this out­side fa­cade that no one can see in­side and hurt him,” Fedak said.

“The way he presents him­self to the out­side world is there’s very lit­tle ex­pec­ta­tion of any­thing good in him.

“He’d rather just have ev­ery­one give up on him so he can fi­nally give up com­pletely on him­self,” she added.

When Cum­mer was re­leased from yet an­other prison stint in 2003, he re­turned to Hamil­ton but by then he was ad­dicted to heroin and co­caine.

“I’ve got a very bad ad­dic­tive per­son­al­ity,” he says. “I’m very weak when it comes to drugs.

“Even­tu­ally, I be­came the per­son I hated most,” he adds.

A lot hap­pened dur­ing this short stretch of free­dom. For one thing, Cum­mer al­leges he was be­ing slowly poi­soned by some­one who was mix­ing cyanide into his drugs, a claim that cer­tainly sounds far-fetched.

He ended up in Hamil­ton General Hospi­tal and he al­leges the doc­tor told him that, luck­ily, who­ever was feed­ing him the cyanide wasn’t giv­ing it to him in large enough doses. “‘You’ve kind of grown im­mune to it,’” the doc­tor al­legedly told Cum­mer.

On an­other oc­ca­sion, he got a call from some­one at 2 a.m., ask­ing Cum­mer to come over.

He had a bad feel­ing, “but I just wrote it off,” he said. When he walked in, the guy had a gun pointed at Cum­mer. Shak­ing, the guy said, “This ain’t per­sonal.” Then he shot Cum­mer in the leg.

“I grabbed the rail­ing of the stair­well and kind of wob­bled and then boom, he shot me again, caught me in the bi­cep,” Cum­mer said.

On the third at­tempt, the gun jammed. Then it jammed again and the guy dropped the gun.

Bleed­ing from two bul­let wounds, Cum­mer claims he picked the gun up and started beat­ing the guy with his own weapon. That’s when the guy told Cum­mer he was sup­posed to be car­ry­ing out a hit on be­half of a Hamil­ton crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Dur­ing this time, Cum­mer also con­tin­ued his al­leged one-man war on drug dealers.

It’s also pos­si­ble, by the way, that Cum­mer’s self­de­scribed vengeance against drug dealers may have been noth­ing more than vi­cious at­tempts by him to ob­tain drugs for his own use.

He says he tied up one vic­tim at a crack house on Ke­nil­worth Av­enue and beat him with a roof­ing ham­mer for hours on end.

“I messed him up pretty good,” he said. “I broke bones and stuff like that.”

When Cum­mer fi­nally left, he says the vic­tim got in his car and tried to drive away but he was weav­ing down the street. Po­lice stopped him and were hor­ri­fied by what they saw.

The of­fi­cers asked the guy if Billy Cum­mer had done this to him and, ac­cord­ing to Cum­mer, the vic­tim said, “I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want to be on the other end of his an­gry stick again.”

But one of the other peo­ple in the crack house iden­ti­fied Cum­mer to po­lice, and he ended up at a max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison in New Brunswick. By this point, his crim­i­nal record was up to 35 con­vic­tions.

As his sen­tence was wind­ing down, Cum­mer es­caped from a half­way house and fled to Saint John for a time. That put his very rec­og­niz­able face on the news in At­lantic Canada as a fugi­tive un­til he was picked up and shipped back to prison.

His sen­tence ended on Oct. 29, 2015, and he re­turned to Hamil­ton. And once again, it didn’t take him long to find trou­ble.

By now, the story starts to sound mo­not­o­nous. Cum­mer went back to a gut­ter life of hard drugs and crack houses, then he de­cided to go af­ter an­other guy he deemed to be an un­de­sir­able.

Cum­mer and two ac­com­plices staged a home in­va­sion at a place near Emer­ald and Bar­ton streets. They tied the guy up while Cum­mer bran­dished a replica hand­gun.

What Cum­mer didn’t know was that his vic­tim had a se­cu­rity cam­era run­ning that night that caught the whole thing on video.

The po­lice showed up. Cum­mer ran and was ap­pre­hended near Bar­ton Street and St. Matthew’s Av­enue. Still, Cum­mer nearly beat this one. He’d had the fore­sight to use a spe­cial type of makeup de­signed to con­ceal tat­toos. He had cov­ered him­self in it, so the man caught in the video footage bore a re­sem­blance to Cum­mer but with­out his dis­tinc­tive tat­toos.

It al­most worked, un­til the Crown hired a video tech­ni­cian. He en­hanced the video enough that the out­lines of Cum­mer’s tat­toos could be seen in the images.

The jig was up. A plea deal was pulled off the ta­ble. The Crown was now look­ing for 15 to 20 years.

That’s when Cum­mer de­cided he didn’t want to ever come out again.

He told his lawyer to ei­ther get him a life sen­tence or get him five years to run con­sec­u­tively for each of the seven charges he was fac­ing.

He figured the 35 years in to­tal would be the same as a life sen­tence, given his age and health is­sues. He didn’t want to be walk­ing out of prison, he says, “try­ing to fig­ure life out and be stuck with noth­ing or no­body.”

And then Jus­tice Skar­ica gave him a small glim­mer of hope.

“You’ve still got time,” Skar­ica told him. “You still have a shot. “You’re not an evil per­son.” Cum­mer thanked the judge sev­eral times be­fore he was led away.

Want­ing out

THE BILLY CUM­MER who shuf­fles into the Mill­haven in­ter­view room looks far dif­fer­ent than the heav­ily-mus­cled man seen in ear­lier pho­tos.

Cum­mer has lost a sig­nif­i­cant amount of weight be­cause of his var­i­ous health ail­ments in re­cent years. He’s also weary from the toll his poor choices have taken on his body and mind.

“Who have I be­come in life? No­body,” he an­swers. “All I’m known for is be­ing a drug ad­dict, and a jack boy who jacks drug dealers.

“I’ve put my life and the lives of peo­ple around me at risk be­cause of the lifestyle I’ve lived for the last 30 frig­gin’ years.”

And yet for a per­son who looks as men­ac­ing as he does with the vi­o­lent his­tory he has, the words love, car­ing and un­der­stand­ing come up a lot more than ex­pected when Cum­mer talks.

In 2012, when he was in prison in New Brunswick, he re­ceived a let­ter from his old­est daugh­ter, Ash­ley, com­pletely out of the blue. “My heart kind of stopped,” he said.

He wrote back, they started talk­ing by phone and then she came to visit him at the half­way house out east, the first time he had seen her since she was a baby.

“There were tears — re­ally emo­tional and re­ally good,” he says now. “It felt so good to have my daugh­ter in my arms and to feel the love.”

The con­nec­tion didn’t last, though, and they’ve drifted apart again.

They both give dif­fer­ent rea­sons for the es­trange­ment. They both sound hurt and an­gry about it.

“I love my dad, I do, but I don’t love the de­ci­sions he has made in life,” Ash­ley says.

Cum­mer’s re­la­tion­ship with his own par­ents is just as com­pli­cated. He says it’s been more than a decade since he’s had con­tact with them.

“I love them, they’re my par­ents,” he says. “But it’s not deep. “If they died, I guess it would bother me.” Dur­ing his last bit of free­dom in Hamil­ton, Cum­mer met a woman named Kori Adams when her fam­ily of­fered to take him in and give him a place to stay.

Adams ac­knowl­edges she’s had her own chal­lenges. She says she’s had some drug is­sues in the past but says she’s been in a methadone pro­gram for the past two years.

They’re en­gaged now, and Cum­mer says she’s a big rea­son why he’s de­ter­mined to fol­low the judge’s ad­vice.

“If I’m still in this re­la­tion­ship with Kori and her fam­ily is still be­hind me, that’s go­ing to be a big fac­tor,” he said.

“I love this woman like I’ve never loved any­one in my life.

“I’m a very lucky, for­tu­nate man to have that,” he added. “A lot of peo­ple in prison don’t have that.”

So far, Adams has stuck by him and says she will con­tinue to do so un­til he’s re­leased.

“I see some­one who isn’t what ev­ery­one says he is,” says Adams, 39. “I just see a guy who wants to be loved and be ac­cepted. “He de­serves to have some­one love him.” It’s just a few months into his lat­est prison stint but Cum­mer in­sists he’s al­ready changed.

For one thing, he says he’s off street drugs and he’s ad­her­ing to a methadone pro­gram to help him kick his heroin ad­dic­tion.

He’s get­ting coun­selling — “I’m be­ing sin­cere about it,” he added — and he’s try­ing to up­grade his ed­u­ca­tion.

“I want to get out of this dark, deep, de­mented world I’ve cre­ated for my­self,” he said. “No­body else has cre­ated it for me but me.

“I should have changed my ways years ago, so that I didn’t waste all these years be­hind these bars … try­ing to be some­one in prison.

“In the end, you’re no­body but a f--king loser sur­rounded by losers,” he said. “I’m tired of be­ing that loser.”

Will this time be dif­fer­ent? Who knows. It’s been 30 years with no sign yet that Cum­mer’s figured things out.

Then again, his lawyer says, he’s made it this far against the odds.

She’s search­ing for a good anal­ogy and fi­nally set­tles on the ex­am­ple of one of na­ture’s hardi­est crea­tures imag­in­able, as un­flat­ter­ing as the com­par­i­son might seem.

“You know how you can step on a cock­roach and they never die?” Fedak said. “Billy’s tough like that.

“I’ve got a few of them and you just can’t kill ’em.”

Shak­ing, the guy said, “This ain’t per­sonal.” Then shot Cum­mer in the leg

Billy Cum­mer pho­tographed by Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor re­porter Steve Buist in March at Mill­haven In­sti­tu­tion, a max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison in Bath, Ont.

Tat­toos cover Billy Cum­mer.

Above: The words n “White Power” and two pis­tols adorn his belly.

Left: Cum­mer n shows off the mas­sive “White Pride” tat­too on his back. There’s also an ea­gle and a swastika, plus the word “In­sane.”



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