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Hammer confesses to more murders

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CLIFTON, N.C. — Freddie Hammer, who is serving five consecutive life sentences for three Grayson County murders, has confessed to two other murders in Ashe County, N.C. police say.

Police say remains of Jimmy Blevins, a Crumpler man missing since 2007, were found in Clifton, a few miles from Warrensville, on Tuesday morning.

Hammer has also admitted to the murder of Timothy Shatley, police said.

Williams said police recovered human remains four to five feet underground on land where Hammer had worked on a privately-owned 29-acre wooded area, off N.C. 88 west.

The remains were sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Chapel Hill, N.C. for positive identification on Tuesday, Williams said.

Blevins, 41, disappeared on Feb. 24, 2007. Williams said police had talked several times over the years with Hammer about both Blevins and Shatley.

When Hammer requested a meeting with Alleghany County attorney Donna Shumate on July 30, police learned about it from undisclosed sources and traveled to Powhatan Correctional Center in State Farm, near Richmond, where Hammer is serving his sentence.

Ashe County sheriff's investigators Lt. Peyton Colvard, the lead investigator on the Blevins case, and Detective William Sands, the lead investigator on the Shatley case, made the trip.

Hammer first met with Shumate, who informed him that authorities were there, Williams said.

Hammer confessed to Blevins’ murder, “but there were certain things he wanted,” Williams said.

Hammer wanted the death penalty off the table. He also wanted his sentence to run concurrently with what he’s already serving in Virginia, to be moved to a prison closer to home and a face-to-face meeting with his wife.

After consulting with Blevins’ family members and a district attorney, those conditions were met, Williams said.

Hammer was the last person known to have seen Blevins — Hammer's nephew by marriage — before he disappeared and police had long considered him the prime suspect in the case.

Hammer, who owned Freddie P's Firewood, in Crumpler, owed money to Blevins for work he’d completed, said Williams. Hammer told police last Thursday that he was angry with Blevins for talking about him to other people and saying that Hammer owed Blevins $1,600.

Blevins had told friends and family that he was considering taking out a warrant against Hammer, Hammer told investigators. Hammer “said he’d always been good to Jimmy, hauled firewood for him in the winter and it made him mad to think that Jimmy was talking about him,” Williams said. “So he shot him and buried him in that hole.”

As for the location of Blevins’ remains, “Hammer did not want to tell us where the body was,” Williams said.

Hammer told police that he would reveal the location of the body only if reward money offered by Blevins’ family was placed in a trust fund for Hammer’s step-daughter. Williams said that’s in the works, but nothing may come of it.

Hammer’s wife was appalled at that idea, Williams said. She didn’t want her daughter to profit from a man’s murder and was shocked that Hammer set that condition.

“It’s despicable, really,” Williams said of Hammer’s request.

Police have not officially charged Hammer with Blevins’ murder. Williams said that authorities plan to seek direct indictments through an Ashe County grand jury in October, when Hammer also is expected to accept a plea agreement for kidnapping and murder, Williams said.

Also on July 30, after further consulting with his attorney, Hammer told police that he killed Shatley, Williams said.

Shatley was shot in his van on the night of Nov. 19, 2005, with a large-caliber firearm near a bridge at the intersection of N.C. 16 and Old Creek Field Road, a few hundred yards from Blevins’ home.

Despite Hammer’s confession, Williams said that investigation is ongoing.

“We’re not to the point where we can bring murder charges against [Hammer] just yet,” he said.

Williams described Hammer’s account of Shatley’s murder as “vague.”

“We have some doubts about his confession, so that case is still open,” Williams said.

Hammer is serving five life sentences without parole after pleading guilty on May 22 to killing three men on a Christmas tree farm in Grayson on Jan. 24, 2008. He admitted going to the farm to steal a gun safe, and killing farm owner Ron Hudler, 73; his son, Fred Hudler, 44; and farm employee John Miller Jr., 25.

While awaiting trial, Hammer admitted the killings to a fellow New River Valley Regional Jail inmate. He told the inmate where to find the murder weapon, along with $10,000 that Hammer had buried.

The inmate wrote a note to his girlfriend, detailing Hammer’s account. Police got the note, found the weapon and cash, and then confronted Hammer, who confessed.

When Hammer confessed to the Grayson murders in court, he denied involvement in Blevins’ disappearance or Shatley’s murder.