State News

N.C. Man Charged in Va. Triple Homicide

Posted January 27, 2008
Updated January 28, 2008

— A North Carolina man has been charged with three counts of capital murder in the slayings of three people, including the owner of one of North Carolina's largest Christmas tree farms, authorities said Sunday.

Frederick Phillip Hammer, 48, of Crumpler, N.C., was being held in Punta Gorda, Fla., where he fled after police questioned him following the discovery of the three bodies in Virginia's Grayson County on Thursday, Sheriff Richard Vaughan said. Hammer waived extradition and will be brought back to Grayson County, Vaughan said.

Investigators said Ronald F. Hudler, 74; his son, Frederick D. Hudler, 45; and employee John S. Miller, 25, of West Jefferson, were shot to death during an attempted robbery on Ronald Hudler's property in Mouth of Wilson, Va., near the North Carolina border.

The younger Hudler and Miller had apparently been working on the family's tree farm in North Carolina and returned to Ronald Hudler's home, where they confronted people in the garage trying to steal a gun safe, the sheriff's office said. Both were fatally shot.

Ronald Hudler, who often kept sizable amounts of money in the safe, was shot and killed, apparently when he came outside to investigate the shots, authorities said.

Investigators in Ashe County, N.C., also want to talk to Hammer, who was a suspect in the disappearance of a Crumpler man with whom he occasionally worked, said Sheriff James Williams. Jimmy Lee Blevins has not been seen since February.

Hudler operated Hudler Carolina Tree Farms, with his three sons, Frederick, Bill and Dale, the mayor of West Jefferson, N.C.

The farm supplied an 18-foot Fraser fir to be the White House Christmas tree in 1995 and was featured in a WRAL documentary, "The Perfect Tree," shown in December 2007.

Hudler's family has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.

28 Comments

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  • anastasia Jan 28, 6:44 p.m.

    Anastasia .... agreed, I would like to see more information on this case. reporting is not very through. Seems like a triple murder would get a lot more attention from the media. FYI, I found a couple of NC mountain news web sites with more info. I heard Hammer is a parolee with interesting criminal record.

    Can you post some links to these sites? It would seem this crime almost had to have more than one perp. Gun safes are heavy. Has anyone heard any word on more possible arrests? And I do wonder why so little news, especially for such a prominent citizen and his son.

  • ladyblue Jan 28, 6:01 p.m.

    May justice be swift for this family. Another senseless murder over a little thing called money. Such a sad way to loose a whole family over.

  • doodad Jan 28, 2:43 p.m.

    haggis, glad to know you aren't a liberal :)

  • FragmentFour Jan 28, 2:36 p.m.

    Sorry - that should have been "conscience." Apologies.

  • FragmentFour Jan 28, 2:27 p.m.

    If sound evidence links the criminal to the crime, he should be executed. The penalty for death is death and I will always support that.--Doodad

    The problem I see with that is that "sound evidence" changes with time. What was considered sound a few years ago may very well not be (with good reason) a few years into the future. However, you are certainly entitled to your own option - it does not have to jive with mine - and we can each vote our conscious.

  • x Jan 28, 1:46 p.m.

    Anastasia .... agreed, I would like to see more information on this case. reporting is not very through. Seems like a triple murder would get a lot more attention from the media. FYI, I found a couple of NC mountain news web sites with more info. I heard Hammer is a parolee with interesting criminal record.

  • haggis basher Jan 28, 1:44 p.m.

    "Why is it that the US gets such a bad rap for the death penalty"

    Because we are suppose to be civilised and they are not. Getting rid of the death penulty in the UK at least was a purely political decision by our lords and masters. It never went to a referendum or similar. I do not know what the figures are now but for a long time the Polls indicated a majority wanted it brought back.
    Most Governments in Europe are a little to the left of even the US democrats so they know what is best for the rest of us regardless of what we think :)

  • doodad Jan 28, 1:13 p.m.

    Also, a death row inmate awaits execution several years and is allowed to appeal. I realize that without the cash to pay for defense, some may be executed before the truth prevails.

    If sound evidence links the criminal to the crime, he should be executed. The penalty for death is death and I will always support that.

  • doodad Jan 28, 1:10 p.m.

    Fragmentfour, if a prosecutor decides to seek the death penalty but during the course of the investigation, there is lack of sound DNA evidence, the sentence could be reduced to life in prison.

    I support the death penalty, but I wouldn't want an innocent person to die.

  • anastasia Jan 28, 12:38 p.m.

    I see no problem with the death penalty for certain crimes. Especially in this day, with the advent of DNA testing. Serial killers, rape/murders/murders of children, etc. When there is absolute positive evidence, no doubt what so ever, I would vote for the death penaty. Example, the case of John Couey who raped and buried alive little Jessica Lunsford in Florida. I would have no hesitation what so ever voting death and pulling the switch myself. In this case, the deaths of these three, possibly four men, let's wait and see what the evidence is against him before we get all riled up. Could be they have found the gun, matched ballistics, etc.

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