CRYSTAL RIVER — Perhaps the strangest thing about David W. "Pervert Dave" Cummings' story is that no one knows how he got the nickname. It's not clear he even knew himself — though the name never bothered him.
When loved ones took out an obituary last week in the Tampa Bay Times, they made sure to include the nickname. Soon, the obit of "Pervert Dave" was making its way through social media, yet another item in an endless stream of Florida weirdness.
"Oh no! Pervert Dave died!" a typical blog headline lamented (in this instance, from Cincinnati's WLW-AM 700 radio).
The man behind the nickname lived a colorful, if dark and sometimes tragic life. Trained as an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force, he claimed to have been aboard three planes that were shot down in Vietnam. He was honorably discharged in 1970 for a character disorder, the details of which are not known. He suffered from post-traumatic stress.
Over a 13-month period in the late 1980s, Mr. Cummings killed two people. One was a guy known as Wheelchair Skip, an amputee roommate in Inglis he shot six times during an argument over money. He was also charged with driving under the influence manslaughter when a woman who was riding with him died after Mr. Cummings slammed into a tree.
He claimed self-defense in the shooting death of Furman W. Toney III, the amputee who had his own violent history. (Six months earlier, Toney had fired a sawed-off shotgun at an imaginary intruder, instead hitting a 5-year-old girl in the face; she was not seriously injured.)
Charged with second-degree murder in Toney's death, Mr. Cummings languished in jail for about two years until a judge withheld adjudication.
He then pleaded no-contest to DUI manslaughter in the death of Dale Marie Williams, 31, and was sentenced to a year in prison.
Though he never had children, he married at least three times, including a short-lived marriage to a 17-year-old when he was 32. (While this seems to be a potential source for Pervert, friends say he was given the name much earlier in life.)
In recent years he retreated to an isolated home in the woods near Crystal River, where he carved wood, let his long beard turn gray and lived as serene a life as one might hope for — at least with a nickname like Pervert Dave.
Mr. Cummings, who found peace after a rocky early adulthood, died April 13 of liver cancer, according to longtime friend Karen Baker. He was 64.
"He was very remorseful over both (deaths)," said Baker, 56, also of Crystal River. She has good-naturedly handled the hordes of media inquiries following the obituary she placed.
As for the nickname everybody wants to know about, Baker said, "It's just something he came back with from Vietnam. It was just a nickname given to him."
David Walter Cummings was born in 1949 in Rochester, N.Y. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1968 and was later promoted to Airman First Class.
He contracted hepatitis C during a blood transfusion after one of his planes was shot down, according to Baker.
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Once a civilian, he refused to set foot on a plane again, she said.
Mr. Cummings came to the Tampa Bay area in the 1970s. He worked at a Clearwater car dealership for many years.
"He could sit there and tell jokes and have everybody laughing," Baker said. "But if it got personal, he would try to listen and help the other person."
The lowest point in his life — causing the back-to-back deaths — led to a new beginning. On Dec. 31, 1991, Mr. Cummings married Debra Ann "Morgan" McGee, a member of several civic organizations who introduced her husband to appraising property and breeding Paso Fino horses.
Morgan Cummings died at 52 in 2004 (of cancer, Baker said). Mr. Cummings spent his time in a little house 5 miles from Crystal River.
He took leisurely motorcycle trips with buddies on a Harley-Davidson Road King once used by police.
He was adept at engraving images into wood, including a skeleton riding a motorcycle.
Researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Andrew Meacham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2248.