Day of destiny for British nurse who killed her husband

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FLORIDA police call it the Valentine's Day murder. And British nurse Helen Cummings, who confessed to shooting her husband to death in a jealous rage, could find out today if she will face the electric chair.

A Florida state attorney listened on Sunday to police evidence before deciding whether the killing was premeditated, that is, first-degree murder, which could mean the death penalty; second-degree, which could mean life; or manslaughter, with a jail term of up to 25 years. Mrs Cummings, a white 32-year-old of Preston, Lancashire, who had lived in the United States for 10 years and worked at the Holy Cross Hospital in North Lauderdale outside Fort Lauderdale, had been married to Tyler Cummings, 30, a black male nurse, for three years. They had a six-month-old son Tyler Jnr, now in the custody of his paternal grandparents. According to a confession cited by police, Mrs Cummings had filed for divorce last September after suspecting her husband of adultery. But she was living with him in an attempt at reconciliation.

On St Valentine's Day, she found photographs of another woman - "partially dressed or undressed", according to police - in his pick-up van. She stormed into their villa in North Lauderdale's sleepy Forest Glen district at 3pm. Finding him in bed after a nightshift, she emptied a .357 Ruger Magnum revolver, according to the confession.

Mrs Cummings then grabbed her child, dropped the gun and ran off. A block and a half way, she stopped someone in the street who had a cellular phone, dialled 911 - the US equivalent of 999 - and shouted: "I've done something terrible. Get to 100 East Jasmine Lane." She then ran to a friend's house and waited for police to pick her up. It as not clear where she had obtained the gun.

Mrs Cummings is being held in Broward County jail, Fort Lauderdale, without bail. Florida state attorney Deborah Zimmit was expected to decide today whether the killing was premeditated. If so, a grand jury will decide whether she should face the death penalty. If convicted and given the death penalty, it would be execution by "Old Sparkie", an early 20th- century electric chair.

A woman convicted of murder - known as "the Black Widow" - is next month due to become the first woman executed in Florida for 150 years.