Jimmy Blevins, Hammer’s nephew by marriage, had been missing since Feb. 24, 2007 when he was last seen leaving his house with Hammer in a pick-up truck. Immediately following his disappearance, a massive search for Blevins ensued but local authorities had few leads to follow until last July when Hammer finally disclosed the whereabouts of the body while in prison. But before Hammer would budge on the information, he first asked that the reward money offered by the family for information on their son’s disappearance to be placed in a trust fund for his step-granddaughter. Although family members were shocked by the request, they obliged him by obtaining a loan from a bank and handed the money over to Hammer’s attorney, Donna Shumate of Alleghany County.
“They made a deal with the devil and we have to undo that,” David Jolly, the family’s attorney said in an earlier Post interview.
Almost immediately following the discovery of Blevins’ remains in a clandestine location in Clifton, Jolly, who took the case pro bono along with the law firm Comerford & Britt, filed a motionon the family’s behalf for Shumate to turn over the reward money, in the amount of $15,000 to the Ashe County Clerk of Court.
“It was what needed to happen,” Jolly said. “The family was in such a tough place. They (authorities) had been digging in various sites around the county looking for the body and it was that close to knowing what they needed to know.”
Hammer, who is currently serving five consecutive life sentences in Wallens Ridge in Virginia for the triple murder of three men on a Grassy Creek tree farm, was not present nor was his representation at the Ashe County Courthouse. He also failed to file an answer or other responsive pleading to oppose the family’s motion for Return of the Reward money.
During the civil hearing Monday, Jolly provided Superior Court Judge Edgar Gregory a five-minute summary of the case in which he explained that Hammer had no right to the reward money offered by the family as he was ultimately responsible for their son’s murder. Gregory then ruled that for the same reasons that Hammer cannot claim the reward money, he cannot exercise a power of appointment over the reward money in favor of a third party. He signed an order that will return the money to the family.
At the time of his death, Blevins had been working for Hammer’s firewood business. Their relationship deteriorated when Blevins began pressuring Hammer over back owed wages. He had even spoken with relatives about how he “might go about suing someone.” Hammer later told authorities that he eventually “snapped” over the $1,605 debt and that he felt betrayed by Blevins in the ordeal because he had “treated him like a son” and even “bought him things whenever he needed them.”
On the night of Blevins’ disappearance, Hammer told authorities that the two went on a ride that eventually took them to a stretch of land dotted by Christmas trees in the Clifton community. It was here that Hammer lured Blevins to a shallow hole on a hillside where he shot his nephew at point blank range and crudely covered his body with boards and debris. He told authorities that he came back to the shallow grave a few days later to better cover his tracks but discovered and later learned that a real estate agent had instructed the land’s owner to cover the hole to increase the value of the property. The grave was left undisturbed until last August when state and local authorities unearthed the 41-year-old’s remains, finally bringing some solace to his mother, Janet Blevins, who until then did not have a grave at which to visit her son.
Although the criminal case against Hammer in the murder of Blevins has not made the court calendar yet, Jolly said that the next step in the matter is taking care of a wrongful death suit filed in August. Jolly is hopeful that the case will ensure that Hammer can never profit from his crime as outlined under the state’s slayer statute if someone was to ever write a book or make a movie about the murder.
Note: In addition to the murder of Ronald and Frederick Hudler, John Steven Miller, and Jimmy Blevins, Hammer also stated that he murdered Tim Shatley as well as 17 others over the span of an unspecified number of years. Although Shatley was murdered in the same community where Hammer lived, authorities are less than convinced of his involvement in the death, citing that Hammer may be simply trying to add “another notch in his belt.”