FORT WORTH -- Tarrant County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a 34-year-old Kennedale man accused of fatally stabbing his pregnant wife, fatally beating his 5-year-old daughter and his father-in-law, and setting their home on fire the week before Christmas, District Attorney Joe Shannon said Wednesday.
A grand jury returned three indictments Wednesday morning, each accusing John William Hummel of capital murder. Each indictment carries the punishment of death by lethal injection or life without parole, Shannon said.
None of the indictments involves the fire.
One indictment accuses Hummel of fatally stabbing his wife, Joy Hummel, with a knife, a dagger and a sword during the same "criminal episode" in which he beat her father, Clyde "Eddie" Bedford, to death with a baseball bat.
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A second indictment accuses him of killing his child, Jodi Hummel, who was beaten to death with the same bat. The charge is capital murder because Jodi was under 6.
The third indictment is the most unusual. It accuses Hummel of committing capital murder by killing Joy Hummel and her unborn child in the same criminal episode.
"This is the first capital murder we've ever indicted involving the death of an unborn child," Shannon said.
Motive not disclosed
Neither Shannon or Fred Cummings, Hummel's court-appointed attorney, would discuss details of the case.
"There is a motive, but I can't disclose it because it's ethically prohibited," Shannon said. "It might in some way taint the jury process."
Cummings, who is defending Hummel with Larry Moore, said he was not surprised by the indictments.
"When you look at all the factors -- the tender age of his daughter and the fact his wife was pregnant -- they haven't done anything that surprised me," Cummings said. "Now that it's indicted, it gives me an idea how to proceed."
Cummings noted that the prosecutors did not seek an indictment for murder in the commission of arson
"By eliminating arson, they eliminate all that brouhaha over the arson commission," he said.
Cummings was referring to the furor that erupted last fall when an arson expert wrote a report for the Texas Forensic Science Commission that investigators in a Corsicana capital murder case used outdated techniques and did not sustain a finding of arson.
The defendant in that case, Carl Willingham, was convicted of killing his three daughters by setting their house on fire in 1991. He was executed in 2004.
Before the commission heard testimony from the expert, Gov. Rick Perry replaced three members of the panel, including the chairman.
Later he replaced other members. The commission still hasn't heard the testimony.
In affidavits made public on New Year's Eve, investigators said Hummel admitted that he bought gasoline on Dec. 18, killed his family, set the home at 600 Little School Road on fire and drove away.
After returning to the house later, Hummel gave a statement to police and handed over his clothes and footwear. What appeared to be dried blood was found on his pants and socks, police said.
Fire officials using a trained dog found accelerant poured in at least two areas of the three bedrooms as well as in a central area of the 1,100-square-foot house.
Authorities later tried to contact Hummel, but he never returned the calls or contacted church friends who filed a missing-persons report that led to his Dec. 20 arrest in California.
Hummel told investigators that he dumped several items behind an auto parts store off Pioneer Parkway in Arlington. Police later found a baseball bat and other items in a trash container.
MARTHA DELLER, 817-390-7857