First Posted: 1/10/2009
INDEPENDENCE, Va. Frederick P. Hammer and his capital murder defense team appeared in Grayson County, Va., Circuit Court on Friday to discuss pretrial motions, heard before Judge Brett L. Geisler.
Hammer, a resident of Crumpler, faces a total of 16 charges in connection with the shooting deaths of three men on the Hudler Christmas tree farm in Mouth of Wilson, Va., just across the Ashe County, line, on Jan. 24, 2008.
He was indicted on July 25, 2008, on three counts of Class-1 capital murder, three counts of malicious wounding, four counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, possessing a firearm by a convicted felon, robbery, grand larceny, and statutory burglary with a deadly weapon. The charges stem from the shooting deaths of Ronald F. Hudler, Frederick D. Hudler, and John S. Miller.
Hammers defense, led by Jonathon Venzvie and Steve Milani of the Capital Defense Office for Southwest Virginia, disclosed information concerning a trip that attorneys will take next week to Philadelphia and Delaware. The purpose of the trip is to interview relatives of Hammer who reside in these areas. Venzvie and Milani are also planning a trip to Nashville, Tenn. to interview a sibling as well as Florida to interview Hammers stepfather. Hammer traveled to his stepfathers residence in Florida shortly after the murders occurred and was apprehended by authorities two days later on Jan. 26, 2008.
Milani said that the defense is still trying to track down a psychological evaluation that was administered on Hammer and is hoping to visit a Catholic-based childrens home that Hammer resided at as a child. Total expenditures for the trip are expected to incur approximately $1,600, Milani said, the same amount as the defenses initial trip to the area. Milani also stated that the defense is still sifting through 3,500 pages of court documents obtained during the first visit.
In addition, a litigation specialist has been brought onto the defense and the team of litigators is also exploring how a forensic paint analyst could be beneficial to their investigation. Traces of burgundy paint were found on Hammers truck bumper shortly after the slayings. The burgundy paint was said to match the paint that was on Ron Hudlers safe, which Hammer allegedly tried to steal during the murders.
Over the course of coming weeks, the defense will also be visiting Hammers past places of residence in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida, and North Carolina. During the visits, the defense hopes to interview Hammers former neighbors and those who knew him, Milani said. Milani also said that the defense will be releasing additional pretrial motions sometime next week.
Following statements made by the defense, the prosecution informed the court that they were preparing a copy of the pretrial order and that copies would be available as soon as possible. According to the Grayson County Clerk of Courts office, a pretrial order would contain deadlines for the filing of certain motions.
Judge Geisler stated the significance of the pretrial order and how it would help keep certain matters of the trial in order.
It is important to have the pretrial order ready, Geisler said. It is not often that we have these in criminal cases but I think in this case it is necessary.
I think, overall, it will help to keep peoples feet in the fire.
Hammer was escorted from the courtroom while members of his family watched as he was placed in a transport vehicle where he would be returned to the New River Regional Jail in Dublin. Security was top priority during the hearing. Hammer entered and exited the courtroom with shackles on his waist, wrist, and hands. A SERT officer armed with an automatic rifle monitored the surroundings as Hammer stepped back into the prison van.
Hammer is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 28 to discuss any additional motions.