Ron and Fred Hudler Murders: Where is Freddie Hammer Now?

Image Credit: Elizabeth Reed/Find a Grave

When the house of one of the wealthiest families in the county was turned into a place of massacre, the entire community was shaken to its core. The triple homicide of Ron, Fred Hudler, and John Miller Jr. resulted in the pain of the victims’ family and friends, as well as an investigation by the police to get to the bottom of the case. The tragic murders are profiled in the episode titled ‘Blue Ridge Bloodshed’ of Oxygen’s ‘Sins of the South,’ which also features exclusive interviews with not just the officials involved in the case but also the loved ones of the victims.

Ron, Fred Hudler, and John Miller Jr Were Found Dead on Ron’s Property

In the 2000s, the Hudler family was considered one of the wealthiest families in Ashe County, North Carolina, having about 1 million trees on their farms, which were located in Virginia, North Carolina, and Michigan. Ronald Frederick “Ron” Hudler was the owner and operator of Hudler Tree Farms, along with his three sons. On July 20, 1934, Ron was brought into the world by Fred and Myrtle Hudler in Detroit, Michigan, where he grew up with his brother Donald Hudler. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1956, he soon began working for General Motors and Electronic Data Systems, where he took on various assignments for several decades. During this period, he got married and welcomed three sons and a daughter into the world — Fred, Bill, Dale, and Deb.

Image Credit: Elizabeth Reed/Find a Grave

Upon retiring as the Vice President of EDS in 1992, he returned to the family farm and planned to establish a Christmas tree business with his sons, planting the first trees in 1980 on a fourth-generation farm in Grassy Creek. In the coming years, the Hudler Tree Farms found immense success as in 1995, they even provided the Christmas tree to the White House. Given his stature in the industry, he also served as an advisor to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association and a Board Member of the National Christmas Tree Association. Moreover, he was the Chairman of the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Agricultural Safety & Health Council. One of his key business partners was his son, Frederick Donald “Fred” Hudler, who was born on May 24, 1963, in Royal Oak, Michigan, to him and his then-wife, Nan Reynolds.

In 1988, he graduated from Michigan State University and began working in advertising in Michigan. Soon, he joined his father and brothers with the Christmas Tree family business in North Carolina in 1995. Being an outdoorsman, he loved to spend time outdoors. He turned this hobby into a small business where he worked as an outfitter and fishing guide. Another thing he loved to do was coach the youth sports team of his sons, Tate and Cole. John Steven Miller Jr., a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native, was born on November 2, 1982, to John Steven Miller and Barbara Alice Barker Miller.

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He grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia and moved to Ashe County in 1999. He used to work as a construction worker, but when he lost his job six weeks before his child, Halei, was born, the Hudlers hired him to work as a Supervisor on the farm and helped him out of a tough situation. On the morning of January 24, 2008, Fred and John had work to do on the farm, including picking up a dump truck parked off NC 16 before 9 am and driving it back to Ron’s house. A while before the clock struck 12 noon, Bill visited the farm alongside a relative to meet up with his father, but he was greeted with a gory sight of his 44-year-old brother lying on the driveway with a gunshot wound to his head.

As Bill’s relative rushed into the house, he found the body of 74-year-old Ron in the living room. Immediately, the authorities were informed about the two dead men. When they arrived at the crime scene, they also discovered the body of John Miller Jr., aged 25, in the garage. While inspecting the house and garage, the detectives found bullet casings, tire impressions, and an unlocked steel gun safe out of place. It was reported that the motive appeared to be robbery as a lot of cash was missing from the property and all three victims had died of gunshot wounds to their respective heads.

Ron, Fred Hudler, and John Miller Jr Lost Their Lives in the Midst of a Robbery

The detectives initiated a thorough investigation into the case, starting with questioning the 50 migrant workers who worked on the farm. During one of the interviews, an Ashe County man named Freddie Hammer was mentioned. He used to work for Ron Hudler previously until they had a fall out.  and had asked about Ron a couple of days before his demise. Reportedly, Freddie was told that the owner of the farm was out of town until the end of the week. The authorities dug deeper into the former employee of Ron and learned that he was also a suspect in the disappearance of a man just a year before. Moreover, years ago, he had killed a Philadelphia police officer and was convicted for the same. After gaining enough knowledge about him, the authorities decided to have a one-on-one with the suspect himself.

They knocked at his white-frame house and he admitted to working with Ron Hudler in the past. Although he admitted that he knew all about the workings of the gun safe, he claimed that he was in Todd, which is about 30 miles away from the crime scene, working at a client’s house. The following day, his claims of being in Todd were proven to be false as a key witness testified that he had seen Freddie near the Hudler farm around 9:10 am, driving his burgundy-and-white Ford flatbed truck. Having enough evidence against Freddie, the police arrested him on January 26, 2008, and charged him with three counts of capital murder related to robbery and one count of capital murder related to the abduction of Ron, who was forced to return inside the house at gunpoint when he came out hearing the gunshots in the driveway and the garage.

While he was incarcerated, Freddie told an inmate about the stolen money he had buried in a barn at a campground, along with a rifle. He offered to pay him $2,000 to get rid of it. However, when the investigators questioned him, it didn’t take long for him to out Freddie.  So, on May 5, 2009, when the investigators went to the private campground in Cripple Creek, where the accused claimed to have buried the money, they found the money that had been stolen from the Hudlers in two cigar boxes. They also found a .22-magnum rifle with a broken scope, which was the murder weapon, upon digging beneath rolls of fence wire. Upon the surfacing of the new evidence against him, Freddie ended up confessing to his crimes and the charges against him.

Freddie Hammer is in Prison, Serving Multiple Life Sentences

Freddie Hammer, aged 49, pleaded guilty to all the charges against him in relation to the murder and robbery of Ron Hudler, Fred Hudler, and John Miller Jr., including five counts of capital murder, one count of each robbery, grand larceny, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and breaking and entering a building with an intent to commit murder with a deadly weapon. Before his sentencing, the convict addressed the family of the victims in court. He stated, “What happened that day should not have happened, and I’m sorry. I went there with the intention of doing a burglary…. It was going to be in and out.”

On May 22, 2009, the North Carolina man was sentenced to five life sentences without the possibility of parole, in addition to two more life sentences and $600,000 in fines. Years later, he also pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Jimmy Blevins, for which he received yet another life sentence without the possibility of parole. Currently, he is serving his multiple life terms behind bars at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Virginia.

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