Roberto Villegas Murder: What Happened to Susan Cummings?

Image Credit: Malita/Find a Grave

In the episode titled ‘The Unlikely Killing: The Heiress and the Polo Star’ of Oxygen’s ‘Sins of the South,’ the viewers get a detailed account of the 1997 murder of an Argentine star polo player named Roberto Villegas right before a tournament polo game in Virginia. The tight-knit community was left shell-shocked after the discovery of her body, and the police launched an investigation immediately. Apart from covering the details of the case, the episode also includes exclusive interviews with the ones closely related to Roberto and the case.

Roberto Villegas Was Found Dead Right Before His Polo Game

Roberto C. Villegas was born in 1959 in Argentina. He was a polo player who spent most of his life in Argentina before moving to the United States, reportedly in his 30s. While in the US in the fall of 1985, he set his sights on Margaret Bonnell as she rode a Quarter Horse during a game in West Palm Beach, Florida. Roberto found himself falling hard for the then-polo player, who also owned a dashing red Corvette. When he met her, he not only introduced himself but also proposed to her for marriage. Seemingly impressed by the Argentine polo player’s straightforwardness, Margaret entered into a relationship with him.

Image Credit: Malita/Find a Grave

As years went by, their bond grew stronger, but they didn’t go on to tie the knot. It was when they realized they were pregnant that Roberto decided to walk out of the relationship. Margaret and Roberto’s son, Justin Cali Bonnell, was born in 1993. She went on to become a roofing contractor in Colorado. Around the mid-1990s, Roberto advanced into the polo community in Fauquier County in Northern Virginia. As he established himself in the circuit, he decided to move there. In 1995, he met polo player Susan Cummings, one of the daughters of billionaire arms dealer Samuel Cummings. Susan, who had spent most of her early life in Monaco and Switzerland, moved to the US in the early 80s with her family.

Roberto was reportedly appointed by the Cummings, which made Susan his employer. They began a whirlwind romance, which intensified in 1996. In a professional capacity, she took care of the expenses of Roberto’s horses and lodging. It was for Susan that Roberto even dropped the opportunity to return to Florida to attend the competitive polo events. He stayed back at NOVA to assist her on her farm. While it seemed like everything was going well for Roberto, his life came to a sudden end on Sept. 7, 1997, when he was shot to death just ahead of a significant polo tournament.

A Close One of Roberto Villegas Murdered Him

Following the unexpected killing of Roberto Villegas, the investigators delved deep into the murder in order to get to the bottom of the case. When they asked around and held interviews with Roberto’s loved ones, they learned that his girlfriend, Susan Cummings, made the most of the fact that he did not have a real income by showing control and dominance over him. Just a couple of years into their relationship, a negative tension between the couple started to surface by mid-1997. On September 7, 1997, Roberto had to represent Argentina at a polo tournament. Since his gear was stored at Susan’s house, Ashland Farms in Warrenton, Virginia, he dropped by her place before heading to the game.

Around 9 in the morning, reports suggested that she laid four fatal gunshots toward the polo player in the second kitchen of the main house. In her defense, she claimed that over the years, he had become abusive towards her and threatened her with a knife. The police found a few cuts on her arm, which they suspected to be self-inflicted, while Roberto had a knife in his hand. According to the suspect’s friends, Roberto had assaulted Susan at least twice, which also included the time he put a noose around her neck. Although Susan claimed that she acted in self-defense as he tortured her with a knife, the police were not buying her story.

On the same day of the murder, Susan was taken into custody and charged with the homicide of her lover. Several months after Roberto Villegas’ murder and the arrest of Susan Cummings, she stood on trial. During the trial, Susan stuck with her claims of acting in self-defense and alleged that her lover threatened her with a knife first on the fateful day of September 7, 1997. On the other hand, the prosecution argued that the forensic reports suggested that the bullets’ downward projection proved that she fired the shots while he was seated. They believed that the defendant shot him as he was eating breakfast, and she had cut her arm just to back up her false claims of self-defense.

Image Credit: Malita/Find a Grave

On May 13, 1998, she was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for shooting Roberto to death in her lavish estate in Warrenton. Although the jury had the option to give out a 10-year sentence, they finalized 60 days of imprisonment, and a fine of $2,500 was the righteous sentence. During her short time in prison, Susan was granted certain privileges. For instance, in fear of her getting abused by her fellow inmates, who were serving far more time for lesser crimes, the authorities cleared out an entire cellblock until the time she was there.

Furthermore, Susan was allowed more visitors than the other prisoners and they granted her mother to bring her cookies. Showcasing good behavior, she only had to serve 51 days of her sentence, with several special jail accommodations. Several years down the line, in January 2003, Roberto’s 10-year-old son, Justin Cali Bonnell, sued Susan and sought more than $15 million for the mental anguish and other emotional damage she caused by murdering his father. The two parties reached a settlement, the amount of which remained undisclosed.

Interestingly, the murder case of Roberto Villegas and Susan Cummings is the focal point of the episode ‘A Scandal in Hunt County’ of ‘Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege, and Justice.’ Lisa Pulitzer’s book ‘A Woman Scorned’ is also based on the same case and was published in 2004. It is also covered by an episode of ‘Behind Mansion Walls’ and Investigation Discovery’s Vanity Fair Confidential.’

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