By Kathy VanWey
FRED HAMMONDS DIES FROM LETHAL INJECTION, The Columbus Chronicle’s headline announced. The attractive, brunette eagerly read the story moving the computer screen to deflect the unmerciful Tucson sun beating through the library windows.
AP Columbus OH - Fred Hammonds, who had been sentenced to death for the murder of his wife, Yolanda, died by lethal injection earlier today at Emerson Correctional Facility. Always defiant, Hammonds fought and kicked the guards on his way to the injection room, screaming his innocence. Head Guard, Aubrey Sanchez reported that Hammonds kept shrieking, “I’m not guilty! She framed me!” Sanchez added, “If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that . . .”
The case made judicial history because the defendant was tried, convicted and sentenced to death, even though his wife’s body was never found. The circumstantial evidence was so overwhelming that at the original trial, the jury only took thirty minutes to convict him. Hammonds also lost three appeals.
In an eerie coincidence, he was put to death on the tenth anniversary of the official date of his wife’s disappearance.
On July 10, 1994, police received a call from Thelma Knight, Yolanda’s supervisor at Enco Gear Works. She reported that for the previous two nights, Yolanda had not shown up for work and that there was no answer at the Hammonds home. This was highly unusual because Yolanda had received the perfect attendance award three years running.
Police were already familiar with the Hammonds residence due to the history of domestic violence calls. According to hospital records, Yolanda received treatment several times for fractures, contusions and a concussion sustained at the hands of her husband.
The now Chief of Detectives, Mark Zorski, was the first homicide detective on the scene. “The street officers called me right away,” he said. “When they first walked into the house, a pungent, acrid odor filled the area. Upon closer investigation, they saw a Diploma of Mortuary Science made out to Frederick J. Hammonds hanging on the wall. On the back porch, they found an open carton which held six bottles of embalming fluid. Five were empty and one was half full. They called Coroner Whitney Parks and Bob Linke from Linke’s Funeral Home to verify the odor was from the embalming fluid. Both Parker and Linke agreed it was. Linke added that this particular brand, Stevenson’s Embalming Fluid, had gone out of business a number of years earlier.”
Zorski continued, “Hammonds had medals from his service in Desert Storm displayed next to the diploma. He had been in the Army for eight years, before being bounced out for decking his commanding officer. During his military stint, Hammonds had been assigned to the Army Mortuary Service.”
A huge manhunt involving several hundred volunteers was organized to search for Yolanda. “The problem was,” Zorski went on, “her husband had multiple places to hide the body. First, we concentrated on the massive land holdings of his parents.”
Hammonds was the only son and middle child of real estate tycoon, Walter Hammonds and his wife, Wilma. “The elder Hammonds have literally thousands of acres, some of it like untouched wilderness. And to make things worst, Dead Man’s Lake, along with several smaller lakes are on the properties. Dead Man’s is the deepest lake in this part of the country. It wouldn’t surprise me if Yolanda’s body’s still at the bottom of it. But,” he emphasized, “we did find fresh mud in the tread of Hammonds’ pick-up tires that matched the composition of the mud found at Dead Man’s. The lake is some thirty miles from the Fred Hammonds’ residence.”
“We hit pay dirt,” Zorski said, “when we uncovered the motive. We discovered rent receipts for a three room studio apartment at 1635 Howell St. The place had been leased to Melinda Marie Meyers. Hammonds’ cell phone showed numerous calls to and from Meyers. Evidence proved that an affair had been going on over a year.”
Blonde hairs, matching those found in the Meyers apartment were also found in the Hammonds’ home. Additionally there were credit card receipts for various motels, sex toys and lingerie. Plus, there were checks made out by Hammonds for her gas and electric bills. Bank records show a withdrawal of $75,000 from Fred Hammonds’ saving account and a deposit for that amount to a savings account for Meyers.”
A bank clerk who wishes to remain anonymous, remembered Meyers opening her account. The clerk stated that Meyers remarked, “Freddie said he doesn’t want to see the witch get a single cent. He promised me that he’s going to build us a home.”
There has been much controversy surrounding Meyers, because police have never been able to track her down. Abdul Kammehiji, landlord of the Howell St. apartment complex, stated that Meyers was “quite beautiful, probably 5’5”, a nice figure, lots of make up, and ‘Dolly Parton hair.’” Half-smiling he said, “She had many gentlemen callers, most of who stayed about a half-hour.” He stated that he didn’t remember seeing Hammonds in person, but added that he didn’t pay much attention to her frequent guests. He did report that Meyers had a picture of Hammonds on an end table and that one time she mentioned to him, “As soon as Freddie cleans up some loose ends, we’re going to get married.” Kammehiji said on the day Hammonds was arrested, that Meyers moved out leaving no forwarding address. Bank records show that on the same day she withdrew the money and closed the account.
During his appeals, Hammonds obstinately maintained that he never knew a Melinda Meyers and had no idea how his picture ended up at her residence, or how her hair ended up at his house. He also repeatedly stated that his wife had framed him. And, he added that he worked second shift, while she worked third. “That would have given the little b**** all kinds of time to pull this plan off.”
Prosecutor Harvey Wallstone was quoted, “Once we introduced the jury to: Hammonds’ expertise in mortuary science, his record in the military for assault and battery, his history of domestic violence and evidence of an affair – all we had to do was show them the trail of crumbs leading to his wife’s disappearance and ask them to play connect the dots - and they did, brilliantly. I was amazed. They voted unanimously for the death penalty, that’s highly unusual. But,” he added, “by the time of his third appeal, we had the ‘smoking gun.’ DNA technology had evolved to the point that we could prove that the microscopic pieces of human flesh and blood residue found on Hammonds’ embalming tools matched the DNA found in his wife’s hair brush.”
Hammonds had made the local news several times due to his violent behavior while in prison. Harold Menlo, Warden of the Emerson Facility stated, “In my forty years of prison work, Hammonds was one of the most difficult inmates I’ve ever seen. I can’t tell you how many fights he started that ended up in near riots with the entire facility having to go through lock-down on account of him.”
Warden Menlo confirmed a report that tonight instead of their usual supper of beans and rice; the inmates are being given a rare treat of pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy. He added, “We are not celebrating Mr. Hammonds death, however, I do want the inmates to know that this is a fresh start for all of us.” There is an unconfirmed report that the guards have chipped in to buy the inmates an additional treat of cake and ice-cream.
Mrs. Knight is quoted as saying, “I’m glad he’s (Hammonds) dead. Yolanda’s smile could light up a room. She loved doing arts and crafts and she had a wickedly, funny sense of humor. I loved her like my own daughter; I miss her each and every day.”
Hammonds was the third person to be put to death this year by the State of Ohio.
The woman hit the log-off button and walked over to the librarian sitting behind the desk. “I need to pay for the article I just printed out.”
“Sure,” the middle-age clerk answered as she reached for the printout to staple it. “Are you new to this area?”
The petite lady flashed a dazzling smile. “Yes, I’ve dreamed of moving here for over ten years. I bought a house over on Yancy Street, where I’m opening up my own craft store.
“Oh. Where Carly’s Collectibles used to be?
“That’s the place. Here’s my card. Stop in sometime.”
“Thank you. Good luck with your new business.” Picking up the card, the clerk read:
THE PERFECT FRAME
Specializing in one-of-a-kind, handcrafted, exquisitely detailed frames
and other distinctive gifts
Yolanda Meyers - Owner