Man held in Fla. for triple murder
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 2:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 2:24 p.m.
INDEPENDENCE, Va. - A man was charged with three counts of capital murder in connection with 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 Thursday, Grayson County 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, N.C., 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 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 he occasionally worked with, said Sheriff James Williams. Jimmy Lee Blevins hasn't 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 the White House Christmas tree in 1995.
Hudler's family had offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.
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