Cunningham murder case ties up last thread | VailDaily.com

Cunningham murder case ties up last thread

EAGLE — The last thread of the Traci Cunningham murder case was tied recently with the sentencing of the man who indirectly provided her the murder weapon.

Jeffrey Lewis Lumpkin, 32, convinced his girlfriend to buy the 9mm handgun in 2011. Traci Cunningham used it on Thanksgiving Day 2012 to kill her adoptive mother, Penelope Cunningham, a retired elementary school teacher and former nun.

District Attorney Bruce Brown said that, at the time, Lumpkin was on a deferred sentence for assaulting his former girlfriend, Jene Perry, and was not supposed to be in possession of a firearm at all, let alone selling one online. Brown said Lumpkin convinced Perry to purchase the gun.

Lumpkin claimed he did not know he was not allowed to own the firearm, and had acquired it for his job, said his attorney.

Penelope Cunningham was a nun, an adoptive mother, an author, and a teacher in Denver public schools. Her adopted daughter, Traci, drove her 177 miles from Aurora to Eagle County and 15 miles up Gypsum Creek Road.

After Penelope Cunningham jumped from the moving car and was running for her life back up the muddy gravel road, Traci Cunningham shot her to death.

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Traci Cunningham claimed she was insane at the time. She insisted she had reached into the back seat to get some beef jerky, but instead pulled out the gun that killed Penelope Cunningham.

The jury took less than three hours to convict Traci Cunningham. She was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"He (Lumpkin) did not commit that crime, and he did not sell the gun to Traci, who did," said Lumpkin's attorney. "He sold it to a man, and that man provided it to Traci."

After Perry and Lumpkin broke up, she sold the gun to Lumpkin's roommate, Bobby Lee Jones.

Jones' fingerprints were still on it when the Colorado Bureau of Investigation examined it following the murder.

Lumpkin sold the gun during a transaction in the parking lot of an Aurora fast food restaurant, the arrest affidavit said.

Traci Cunningham was present at the sale, Lumpkin told Jacob Scott, an investigator with the District Attorney's office.

Perry originally bought the gun from a North Denver Bass Pro Shop on Sept. 6, 2011, according to the transaction report. She said Lumpkin "manipulated" her into buying the gun, and that Lumpkin was present when she bought it.

Probation and jail

During Wednesday's sentencing, Penelope's brother David said his sister's death was facilitated by Lumpkin committing this crime. He said he'd like to see others protected from the "incredible negative impact I've lived with for the last three years."

Brown asked for a year in state prison.

Lumpkin pleaded guilty to weapons possession by a prohibited offender, a Class 6 felony.

District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman sentenced Lumpkin to four years probation and 90 days in the Eagle County jail. If he violates probation, then he goes to state prison, Dunkelman said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.