John William Hummel, 45, was executed by lethal injection on 30 June 2021 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of his wife, daughter, and father-in-law in their home.
Hummel lived in Kennedale, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Tarrant County, with his wife, Joy; daughter, Jodi; and father-in-law, Clyde Bedford. He met Kristie Freeze at a convenience store where he often stopped on his way to and from his job as a security guard at an Arlington hospital. Beginning in October 2009, they began sending text messages to each other and formed a romantic relationship, which turned sexual in December. Both were married. Hummel told Freeze that he did not love his wife, and she told him that she was getting divorced.
On 10 December, Hummel informed Freeze that his wife was pregnant. Freeze initially asked him not to contact her anymore, but he continued to call and text her. On 16 December, Freeze told him that her divorce had become final.
On Thursday, 17 December, around 9 p.m., Hummel, then 34, visited Freeze and her young daughter at their apartment in Joshua, about 25 miles southwest in Johnson County. He then returned home. He stabbed Joy, 35, to death and beat Bedford, 54 and Jodi, 5, to death with a baseball bat. He then set the house on fire and left.
Shortly after midnight, a passer-by called 9-1-1 to report that the Hummels' house was on fire. Police officer Joshua Worthy arrived about fifteen minutes later. He kicked open the front door and was unable to see anything but smoke and flames inside. After the blaze was extinguished, the burned bodies of the three victims were found in their respective bedrooms. From the wounds on Joy and the blood on her clothing, investigators immediately became suspicious that the fire was started in an attempt to cover up a violent crime.
Hummel came home around 4:30 a.m. He asked Officer Worthy what happened and "if everyone had made it out." Worthy replied that he did not know. Hummel went and sat in his minivan, which he had parked across the street. Worthy followed him. Hummel informed Worthy that he lived in the house with his pregnant wife, daughter, and father-in-law. Captain Darrell Hull then walked over to them. He asked Hummel what he had been doing that evening. He replied that he had gone to Wal-Mart to check prices for Christmas presents. He continued to ask "if everybody had made it out."
At Hull's request, Hummel followed the officers to the Kennedale Police Department in his own minivan. There, he gave a written statement reading as follows:
"So I left my home around 9:00 p.m. I drove down to Joshua to visit a friend but [he] was not home. I drove around for awhile to wait and see if he would come home, but he didn't. I stopped and got gas, drove around some more. Then I began to visit Walmarts to price things for Christmas. I came home a little after 5:00 a.m. and found it burned down, and firemen and police were still there."
Detective Jason Charbonnet asked Hummel about the friend he went to see on the night of the fire. Hummel replied that he was a friend from work named "David." He did not know David's last name or address. He also asked Hummel which Wal-Marts he visited, and he could not remember.
Charbonnet told Hummel that he was skeptical of his story and that it appeared that there was "some sort of possible, like an altercation or something at your house." Hummel denied that there was an altercation or argument.
While Hummel was being interviewed, Agent Steven Steele of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives noticed what appeared to be blood on his pants. He instructed Hummel to surrender his clothing in exchange for new clothing. Steele subsequently testified that when Hummel received the new clothing, he began undressing in front of him. While he was changing, Steele noticed more blood on his socks and scratch marks on his back. He asked Hummel how he got them. Hummel replied, "Playing with my dog."
Hummel consented for police to search his house and van.
At around 8 a.m., Hummel reported to his place of employment in Arlington. He attended a meeting, collected his paycheck, and left at 11 a.m. Co-workers did not notice anything unusual until he failed to return and people began calling and asking for him. A friend subsequently went to the police department to file a missing person report.
Steele and other investigators concluded that the house fire was deliberately set and had three distinct areas of origin. Medical examiners determined that Joy, who was 14 to 15 weeks pregnant, had a total of 35 stab wounds on her neck, chest, abdomen, back, and thigh. She and Bedford also had multiple skull fractures caused by blows from a blunt object. No soot was found in the victims' airways, which indicated they were dead before the fire started.
On 20 December, Hummel attempted to re-enter the United States from Tijuana, Mexico without a passport. Upon entering his name and date of birth into the computer system, border agents saw that there was a missing person report on him that included an "armed and dangerous" notation. They contacted Kennedale police, who stated that they were in the process of getting an arrest warrant. Border agents detained him. Kennedale and Tarrant County officers then traveled to San Diego to interview him. He gave the following written statement:
I left the house at 9:00 p.m. Thursday December, 12/17/2009, in my uniform. Stopped at a store to get some cigarettes off of Mansfield Highway. Went to Joshua to visit Kristie. Sat in her living room to watch TV. I left her house and went and got gas. I then went home, killed my family, set the house on fire, drove around and looked around for a place to dump the weapons. Then I drove back to Burleson to go to that Walmart. Then just drove around and stopped at various other walmarts to be seen on camera until it was time for me to go home. I knew I could not tell y'all I was working because y'all would check. I then went to the police station in Kennedale and lied to detectives about knowing what happened.
On 12/18 of '09, after being released by detectives, I realized they had enough evidence to prove I did [those] horrible . . . things. So I went to my work office to pick up my check and cashed it. I then proceeded to drive to California late Saturday night. I arrived in Oceanside, California, and met a man. We drove down to Tijuana. Returning to U. S., border patrol checked my ID and found out I had [a] warrant. I'm glad that I got caught so I could tell the truth about what happened.
I remember standing there holding the kitchen knife contemplating on whether or not to kill my wife for about 30 minutes. I stabbed her in the neck. She screamed. The knife broke. She began to try and fight back. I grabbed the baseball bat and hit her in the head repeatedly until she fell on the ground. Then I grabbed some of my other knives and swords [and] began stabbing her.
I then killed my father-in-law and daughter by striking them in the head with a baseball bat. Then I set the fires.
Hummel stated that he originally tried to kill his family in October, when his relationship with Freeze began. He put rat poison into ground turkey, with which he made spaghetti sauce. He left the meal for his family while he went to work. His wife later told him that she threw the spaghetti out because it tasted strange.
The day after obtaining Hummel's confession in San Diego, investigators searched a dumpster at a store in Arlington and found an aluminum baseball bat, a large sword and sheath, a small sword and sheath, a dagger with a broken handle, and a kitchen knife. The three smaller blades were contained in a plastic trash bag. Hummel's DNA and DNA from two of his victims were found on the weapons.
Hummel, a former U.S. Marine, had no prior criminal history.
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