Hammer faces new charges

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INDEPENDENCE — Frederick Hammer returned to Grayson County General Circuit Court on Oct. 31 to answer to two additional charges of capital murder while committing a robbery.

A grand jury, meeting in session Oct. 24, returned the two charges in the deaths of Frederick Hudler, 44, and a farm worker, John Steven Miller Jr., 25, both who lived in West Jefferson, N.C.

Hammer now faces a total of 16 charges in connection with the shooting deaths of three men on a Christmas tree farm in Mouth of Wilson on Jan. 24.

During his court appearance, Hammer agreed to forego his right to a speedy trial.

Hammer will return to court on Jan. 9, 2009, at 9:30 a.m., when pre-trial motions will be accepted. Judge Brett Geisler said a trial date would probably be set that day, as well.

The trial was originally set for the week of Dec. 1-5, but has been postponed.

The charges against Hammer include: robbery, grand larceny, statutory burglary, three counts of malicious wounding, four counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and five counts of capital murder, one for the commission during an abduction, two in the commission of a robbery and a fifth for committing more than two murders within three years.

Independence attorney Jonathon Venzie and the Capital Murder Defense Team from Christiansburg — which includes four lawyers and an investigator — have been appointed by the court to represent Hammer.

The charges against Hammer stem from the alleged murders of Ronald Hudler, 73, his son Fred, 44 and farm worker Miller, 25 on Jan. 24.

Frederick Hudler’s body was found in the driveway of his father’s home in Mouth of Wilson. Miller’s body was found inside a garage and Ron Hudler’s body was found in the living room of his home. All three died of gunshot wounds.

Grayson County Sheriff Richard Vaughan said robbery was the apparent motive that led to the shooting. A gun safe containing firearms was broken into and a security box missing form an office in the Hudler home.

Frederick Hudler and Miller were working on the farm when they cam to Ronald Hudler’s home and apparently came upon an alleged robbery in progress, according to testimony given during a preliminary hearing for Hammer on Aug. 4.

Hammer was arrested in Florida on Jan. 26. He has been held in the New River Valley Regional Jail in Dublin without bond since his arrest.