WEST JEFFERSON-In a letter written from his Virginia prison cell, convicted murderer Freddie P. Hammer has told the Jefferson Post he knows details about two local cold cases that have long stumped investigators.
Hammer alludes to the murders of Timothy Shatley and Julie Lovette in his letter and a correspondence between he and his attorney, Donna Shumate, confirms his desire to meet with the Ashe County Sheriff’s office to discuss details that could bring closure to two families.
Shatley was murdered on Nov. 19, 2005. He was found shot to death in his vehicle near the bridge on N.C. 16N in Crumpler. Lovette, whose body has never been found, has been missing since March 2001. She was 29 at the time when she disappeared from neighboring Johnson County, Tenn. reportedly after an argument with a boyfriend.
Hammer, formerly of Crumpler, is serving multiple life sentences without chance of parole at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap, Va. He was convicted of the 2008 shooting of Ronald Hudler, 74, his son Frederick Hudler, 45, and employee John Miller, 25, during a robbery on Hudler’s Tree Farm just across the Ashe County line into Grayson County, Va.
He was later convicted in 2010 for the shooting murder of his nephew, Jimmy Blevins of Crumpler, who had been missing since 2007. Hammer confessed and told authorities where to find Blevins’ body in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.
Hammer included the Aug. 24 letter from Shumate in his hand written account that was mailed to the Post last week.
In her letter, Shumate tells Hammer she was stopped in the parking lot by Ashe County Det. William Sands the day before the letter was sent.
“He told me that you and I were on his mind yesterday,” Shumate stated in the letter. “He wanted to know if I was still in contact with you. I told him that I was. He said there are unresolved matters in Ashe County that he believes you would be able to resolve.”
Shumate said that she was not opposed to having a face-to-face meeting with Hammer on the subject.
Ashe County Sheriff James Williams said investigators have been down this road before with Hammer and question his sincerity in actually divulging any worthwhile information on the two cases. They have already met with him multiple times with the last interview coming in 2014.
To this day, he said investigators have not found a shred of credible information to link him to either death.
On Monday morning, Williams confirmed Sands’ conversation with Shumate.
Williams said investigators are still willing to talk to Hammer, but only if he is sincere in his claims and willingness to be truthful.
“He takes great pride in two things: jerking us around and getting in the press again,” said Williams. “We would love to give the families closure, but I have no plans to meet with him right now.”
During previous interviews with Hammer, the convicted killer told investigators on two separate occasions both the location of the body of Lovette and the location of murder weapon in the Shatley case. Subsequent searches of the areas defined by Hammer turned up nothing, said Williams.
Hammer’s version of how the Shatley murder transpired don’t add up with investigators either. Basically, he couldn’t add anything new to the narrative, the sheriff said. Hammer’s details were nothing beyond what had already been written in newspaper articles.
Hammer has played this game with investigators before, but with different results. After repeatedly denying any involvement in the murder of Blevins, Hammer, possibly feeling as if he had nothing to lose, finally told investigators that he killed his nephew and where they could find his body. Hammer was already in prison for the triple murder conviction and investigators told him they would remove the possibility of the death penalty if he finally agreed to tell them where they could find Blevins.
A similar deal could be in the works down the road, but only if Hammer actually has any new details to divulge to investigators.
“Sands said that the sheriff is willing to the same terms as before, that is to say that if you tell them the location of Julie Lovette, there would be a guarantee of no death penalty,” Shumate wrote to Hammer.
Any strategy possibly being devised by Hammer could be a first for any defense attorney.
“I would like to point that it is highly unusual for a defense attorney to work towards getting her client charged with murder when it is obvious that the state does not have enough evidence to indict you,” she wrote.
Williams doubts any confession by Hammer would make that much of a difference now, even if he was being honest.
Considering he’s already serving six life sentences, Williams doesn’t think the district attorney’s office would prosecute him on the Shatley death if the possibility of the death penalty was removed.
“It would just be a waste of taxpayer’s money if he’s already serving six life sentences,” said Williams.
Shumate seems to agree.
“I do not see that you gain much by cooperating,” said Shumat in her letter. “We might be able to negotiate some small benefits, get some publicity (which I think you like), and give you some entertainment for a little while. It would give the families some closure and it could ease your mind if you know anything. But that is about it.”
And as Hammer mentioned in his letter to the Post, he doesn’t have much to lose.
“I have nothing to live for,” wrote Hammer. “I wish to God I would of took my chances in Virginia in court. Probably would of been found guilty and received the death sentence. After the life I’ve lived in prison already, I would have been better off.”
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.