Shortly after 12:00 am on December 18, 2009, a man was walking down Little School Road in Kennedale, Texas, when he came across a house engulfed in flames and frantically called 911. When officers arrived, they kicked down the front door in an attempt to rescue any trapped residents but the smoke and flames made it impossible for them to see past the doorway. They shouted out but received no response.
At 4:30 am, a man parked his vehicle at a church across the street and approached an officer at the scene. With a vacant look on his face, he asked the officer whether anyone had made it out. The officer responded that it had yet to be determined and when he questioned the man's curiosity, the man said, “I live here with my wife, daughter and father-in-law.”
That man was 34-year-old John William Hummel, an ex-marine who worked as a security guard at a hospital in a neighbouring city.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze and to their horror, they stumbled upon three deceased bodies: John’s wife, 34-year-old Joy Hummel who was 15 weeks pregnant, the couple’s 5-year-old daughter Jodi and John’s father-in-law, 57-year-old Clyde Bedford.
John was escorted to the police station for questioning where detectives noticed blood on his pants and socks and fresh scratches on his back. Despite having just learned his entire family had been killed, he did not shed one tear.
John told detectives that he left his home at 9 pm and went to visit a friend named David, whose last name and address he suddenly couldn’t remember. When he realized David wasn’t home, he filled his car up with gas and went to Walmart to check prices for Christmas gifts for his family.
Detectives gave John an exchange of clothes and sent his in for forensic testing. Since they had no hard evidence to arrest him at the time, John was released. He picked up a paycheque from work and vanished.
John failed to attend a memorial for his wife, daughter and father-in-law. When his friends could not reach him they became concerned for his safety and reported him missing. It had never crossed their minds that John could be the one responsible for the tragedy that had occurred in their quiet, usually peaceful city.
As expected, detectives soon learned that the fire was no accident, it had been intentionally set to cover up the triple homicide. Rolls of toilet paper had been lit on fire and placed throughout the home.
Clyde and Jodi had died of extensive blunt-force injuries to the head and Joy had been stabbed a total of 35 times. Extensive defence wounds on Joy’s hands proved she fought for her life. All three were already deceased when the house was set on fire. The blood and DNA of all three victims were found on John’s clothing and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
On December 20, John was captured attempting to re-enter the United States on foot at the border between San Ysidro, California and Tijuana, Mexico. He expressed his relief at being caught and stated, “I did a horrible, horrible thing. I know I’ll spend the rest of my life in jail or put to death. I accept it. I deserve it.”
John’s motive was a woman named Kristie Freeze who he had met at a convenience store in October of 2009. He would often stop by to chat and flirt before heading to work. Eventually, the pair exchanged phone numbers and began a full-blown affair. John told Kristie he was already married but no longer loved his wife. Kristie was also married with one child but had filed for divorce after she met John. On October 16 Kristie told John her divorce had become final. A day later, he killed his family.
In John’s written confession he wrote that on October 17 he left his home at 9 pm and went to Kristie’s apartment. He left a half-hour later after reading a bedtime story to her daughter. He then went home, killed his family as they slept and set the house on fire. Afterwards, John discarded the murder weapons in a dumpster at an auto parts store and went to Walmart to be captured on surveillance footage as part of his alibi.
In the dumpster, detectives found an aluminum baseball bat, two swords, three knives and a dagger. The weapons contained John’s DNA and the blood of all three of his victims.
Clyde Bedford was a retired plumber who was confined to a scooter due to debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. He spent his days at the Kennedale Seniors Center. He loved spending time with his family, especially his 5-year-old granddaughter Jodi who he often referred to as the light of his life. Joy was a licensed massage therapist who often gave therapeutic massages to her father to help ease his pain. She was described by her loved ones as a compassionate and dedicated woman, daughter and wife. She loved being a mother to Jodi and was looking forward to welcoming her second child into the world.
John was arrested and charged with 3 counts of capital murder. The prosecution argued that he killed his family in order to start a new life with Kristie and showed evidence that he had attempted to kill his family once before by putting rat poison in their food.
John showed zero emotion or remorse during the trial. His attorneys argued that John was mentally ill and a psychologist testified that he suffered from borderline personality disorder. The jury was unmoved and found John guilty of capital murder. On June 28, 2011, he was sentenced to death.
John was set to be executed on March 18, 2020, but like many others, the execution was postponed due to the Coronavirus. His execution has now been re-scheduled for June 30, 2021.