Slain mom was helpful, creative, friends say
Saturday, May 15, 2004
BY T.W. BURGER of The Patriot-News
Charlene Hummert liked to take her mother to rummage sales. She loved classical music and ballads from the '60s and '70s, and she liked helping people. Friends said the 48-year-old church volunteer and mother of three seemed to have no enemies. Almost two months after she was found strangled, Fairview Twp. police have made no arrests in Charlene Hummert's death. They are, however, investigating her husband, Brian D. Hummert. Brian Hummert, who has retained an attorney, said Charlene was probably the victim of a stalker.
Charlene Hummert was found strangled in her sport utility vehicle March 21 in a grocery store parking lot a mile from her home. Brian Hummert told police he and his wife argued the night of March 19, and that she left their home with an unknown person who picked her up around midnight. The next morning, his wife's SUV was gone, he told police. Brian Hummert presumed she had returned during the night and driven away to calm down after their argument.
The Hummerts have three children: David, 20, Tracey, 19, and Dean, 12. According to their aunt, Bonnie Myer of Harvest, Ala., Dean was at church camp and David and Tracey were out with friends when their mother disappeared. On the morning of March 21, Hummert reported his wife missing. An officer interviewed Hummert shortly after 4 p.m., and her body was found about 8 p.m. that evening, wrapped in a blanket in the SUV's cargo area.
Police have searched the Hummerts' home, vehicles, computer hard drives and telephone records. They obtained York County Children and Youth Services records as part of an investigation into allegations of physical abuse lodged by David Hummert. Brian Hummert told police his wife had been plagued by a stalker a couple of years ago. "She reported it to the police, but they couldn't find anything," he told The Patriot-News shortly after Charlene's body had been found. Charlene Hummert recently came to fear that she was being stalked again, he told police.
Some of Charlene Hummert's friends have told police that she never mentioned those fears to them. According to court records, police think Charlene Hummert had come to believe that her husband was the stalker. In a warrant application, Fairview Twp. Police Detective Jason Loper said he does not believe Charlene Hummert ever left her house that Sunday night and was not being stalked. He also said the straw tangled in her hair and the dirt on her clothing seem to match straw and dirt from the Hummerts' yard. An abrasion on Charlene's body is consistent with it having been dragged, Loper said.
During their search of the Hummert home, police took dirt, straw and pine needles and specimens of what was suspected to be blood from a carpet and a door frame. Police also seized a dog leash, clothes belonging to Brian Hummert, hair and debris found in the driveway, and other items. Loper was not available to comment. Patrick F. Lauer Jr., Brian Hummert's attorney, this week said his client is innocent.
"Just because you argue with someone doesn't mean you murder them," Lauer said. "To my knowledge, there is no direct evidence connecting my client to any foul play." Lauer said Charlene Hummert never filed for divorce or a restraining order, so he finds it hard to believe she was in fear for her life. "There are a lot of bad people out there," Lauer said. "My client has no criminal record at all, and he had no motive." An anonymous letter recently sent to The Patriot-News claimed to be from the real killer. Police have not commented on the letter's authenticity and have sent it to a crime lab for analysis.
A stunned community:
Ron Killin, who works at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, where Charlene Hummert worked as a clerk-typist since August 2000, said he counted her as one of his best friends. He said her smile could light up a room. "When I called her mother to offer my condolences, I congratulated her for raising such a fine daughter," Killin said. "She said no, that Charlene had raised all of them. She was the baby, but she was the rock of the family." Killin said that over the years, Charlene had quit three jobs to take care of family members who were ill: her mother, a brother and her father, who is now deceased. She went the extra distance for her kids, too. In 1992, The Patriot-News interviewed Charlene while she waited in line for a Sears "door-buster" sale the day after Thanksgiving. Hummert was first in line. "When you have a little kid who likes video games, and they have Tasmania and Hedgehog II on sale, you do what you have to do," she told the reporter.