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Jurors needed just 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon to find Brian David Hummert guilty of the first-degree murder of wife Charlene Hummert.
That's 15 minutes longer than jurors took to reach a guilty verdict in his first trial. That 2006 verdict, however, was overturned on appeal.
"I'm just happy we got the result we were looking for and he's going back to where he belongs," said son David Hummert, 28.
"Thank God they got it right," said Wayne Meyer, one of Charlene Hummert's siblings.
"I'm so glad it's over," brother Dennis Meyer said. "Justice has finally been served. Hopefully it will stick this time."
In addition to first-degree murder, jurors also found Hummert guilty of hindering his own apprehension and prosecution, for sending fake "killer" letters to police and a newspaper reporter. Those letters claimed to be from a serial killer named "John" and stated Hummert was innocent.
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PROSECUTION'S CLOSING ARGUMENT:
While fatally strangling his wife, Brian Hummert showed "all the remorse and emotion he showed after (her) death," chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker told jurors during his closing argument Tuesday afternoon.
According to prosecution testimony, that was none.
"Cold. Calculated. Premeditated. Deliberate," Barker said of Charlene Hummert's slaying.
He told jurors the "avalanche" of evidence proves Brian Hummert is guilty of first-degree murder.
"This is as simple as a game of Clue," Barker said. "It's Mr. Hummert, on Boeing Road, with the dog cable. It's beyond any doubt."
Barker scoffed at letters sent to police and a reporter after Charlene's death that supposedly were written by the killer, and which exonerated Hummert.
He told jurors the letters reminded him of an episode of the 1970s television show "Welcome Back, Kotter" in which student Epstein hands over a note that reads, "Please excuse Epstein from school today. Signed, Epstein's Mother."
Barker recounted for jurors in detail the testimony of both forensic experts and those who knew the Hummerts:
Unique soil found in drag marks on Charlene's sweatpants match soil from the Hummert driveway. Abrasions on Charlene's neck match a clasp and other features on a red plastic-coated cable that was part of a dog-leash contraption, and which was seized from the Hummert home. Carpet fibers tangled in a clump of the victim's hair and found on the driveway are consistent with carpet in the Hummert home. A "stalker" letter was found on the Hummert computer.
"No ifs, no ands and no buts," Barker said. "And that is what the science shows."
The Hummerts' marriage was over, the prosecutor told jurors.
"It's done," he said. "A basic old motive. ... (and) only one person could have done it."
Accused wife-killer Brian David Hummert spent about an hour and 40 minutes on the witness stand Tuesday morning, during which he denied killing Charlene Hummert and denied writing both the "stalker" letters sent to her in 2001-02 and the "killer" letters sent to police and a reporter after her slaying.
He admitted they were having marital trouble at the time of her death, which police said happened the night of March 19, 2004, or into the early-morning hours of March 20, 2004.
"It was rocky," he said. "We were trying to make it work. ... I loved her. I cared very much for her."
Prosecutors are trying to prove Hummert, 55, ambushed his wife of 22 years from behind in their former Boeing Road home in Fairview Township and fatally strangled her with a red plastic-coated cable that was part of a homemade dog-leash contraption.
Prosecutors allege Hummert then dragged his wife's body outside to her Land Rover, stuffed it into the cargo area and drove the SUV about a mile to the Giant Food Store parking lot it Fairview Township, where it was found by police the night of March 21, 2004.
Yelling: Prompted by questions from defense attorney Vincent Quinn, Hummert said that on the night in question he and his wife had a verbal argument because Charlene was upset about finances, the lack of housework being done and other things.
"It wasn't an argument per se," he told jurors. "It was more her yelling at me and I stayed quiet."
Afterward, she called someone on the phone and a car later showed up and picked her up, he said. Her Land Rover was still in their driveway about 4 a.m. when their adult son David came home, but was gone by about 7 a.m.
Under cross-examination, chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker reminded Hummert that one of the letters from the purported killer states he killed Charlene Hummert in her kitchen, dragged her outside, loaded her into the Land Rover and drove off.
'Dead to the world': Barker asked Hummert if he'd heard any noise from any of this, and Hummert said he didn't.
"I was exhausted, so I probably was dead to the world," the defendant said. "Things can be going on in the kitchen that you can't readily hear (in other parts of the house)."
Barker showed Hummert the homemade cable dog-leash contraption believed to be the murder weapon -- which was seized from the Hummert home -- and asked him if he recognized it.
"(It's) similar to the one I had made," Hummert said, but slightly different.
Cable at issue: He said he doesn't know what happened to the contraption he'd made, which also was red. He also said the cable in Barker's hand came from "a security cable that came with a bike rack."
That's when Barker asked if someone had come in and taken the cable Hummert had made.
"It's a possibility, sir," Hummert said.
Hummert denied being the man caught on Giant security video entering the store at 6:17 that morning.
Barker showed him a photo of the man in the dark coat, red gloves, knit hat and work boots walking into the supermarket. He then rooted through boxes of evidence and retrieved the dark coat, red gloves, knit hat and work boots seized directly from Hummert by police.
"It looks like one of my coats," Hummert said. "I don't know if these are my boots."
DNA: As for why his DNA in the form of semen was found on his wife's body and underpants, Hummert said they had sex the night before she went missing.
Barker then asked whether Hummert's co-workers, Charlene's co-workers and police had lied when they testified the Hummerts told them they hadn't had sex in months.
"Not lying, but mistaken," Hummert said, adding some testimony was "misremembered, misheard (and) there's bias. ... People want to see a certain outcome."
He also denied asking out his Lowe's co-worker, Patti Hurley, both before and after Charlene's homicide, which Hurley testified to last week.
Personal info: Barker asked why, then, did Hummert print out Hurley's state driver license information while at his primary job as a state police computer technician. Hummert replied he was trying to solve a computer problem and plugging in her name somehow helped him fix that problem.
Barker then asked why the printout was found in Hummert's home. The defendant replied he took work home with him.
Hummert said that like police and a reporter, he also received a letter from the purported killer.
"I can't remember specifics (of it)," he testified.
That letter was never entered into evidence and it's unclear whether it was ever turned over to police.
'Not enough': Shortly before lunchtime, defense attorney Quinn gave jurors his closing argument, telling them "there isn't enough" evidence to convict Hummert.
But, he said, if the jury disagrees, then there's certainly not enough evidence to prove it was a premeditated first-degree murder. Hummert also is charged with third-degree murder and lesser offenses.
Quinn urged jurors to question expert testimony linking Hummert to the homicide.
Quinn also admitted that after the slaying, "Brian said some stupid things to people."
Barker is expected to give an hour-long closing argument starting after lunch, at 1:15 p.m.
Prosecutors wrapped up their case against accused wife-killer Brian David Hummert Monday afternoon with expert testimony linking him to "stalker" letters victim Charlene Hummert received in 2001 and 2002 and to letters sent after her slaying that claimed to be from the killer and exonerated her husband.
Hummert, 55, formerly of Boeing Road in Fairview Township, is charged with first-degree murder and related offenses for allegedly killing Charlene Hummert, his wife of 22 years, in their home the night of March 19, 2004.
This is his second trial. The first ended in a conviction and life sentence, but was overturned on appeal.
Prosecutors allege Brian Hummert ambushed his wife from behind and fatally strangled her with a metal cable that was part of a homemade dog leash contraption.
He then dragged her body outside, stuffed it into the cargo area of her Land Rover and drove it to the Giant Food Store parking lot in Fairview Township, prosecutors maintain.
Testifying Monday was Michele Zeiders, a state police handwriting-analysis expert who retired in 2010.
'No other conclusion': Zeiders told jurors she examined the two handwritten "killer" letters -- one sent to the lead detective in the Hummert case, the other to a local reporter -- and determined they were written by Brian Hummert. She compared the letters to numerous known samples of his writing, she said.
"I could come to no other conclusion," Zeiders said. "Only one writer, and that would be Mr. Hummert, wrote those documents."
Also testifying was Robert Leonard, director, chairman and professor of Hofstra University's graduate program in forensic linguistics.
Leonard compared the "stalker" and "killer" letters to known samples of Brian Hummert's writing and determined the letters and Hummert's writings shared similar dialect, education level, complex structures and time shifts.
Cruel humor: Also, he said, the writers of all the letters used "cruel humor, sardonic humor and irony."
An example of that is from one of the "killer" letters, in which the author claimed to have had an affair with Charlene Hummert and wrote, "She wanted to break it off. So I broke her neck."
Moreover, Leonard told jurors, the letters share something else with Hummert's own writing -- a peculiar habit of sometimes using negative contractions, but never using positive contractions. (For example, "I am" was never contracted to "I'm.")
"I have never seen this precise ... pattern before," Leonard testified.
Jurors didn't hear that Leonard was a founding member of doo-wop group Sha-Na-Na, or that he sang with the group at Woodstock.
Man on video: Peter J. Smith, a forensic examiner with the FBI, testified he reviewed security videos from Giant around the time the Land Rover was believed to have been parked in the lot there, between 4 and 7 a.m. March 20, 2004.
The videos show a man wearing a coat, knit hat and red gloves walking into the Giant at 6:17 a.m.
Smith testified he determined the man in the video was 5-feet-5, plus or minus an inch and a half. Jurors heard last week that Brian Hummert is 5-feet-4.
Also testifying Monday morning was Braden Cook, a forensic examiner with the state attorney general's office. He previously worked for the state police computer crime unit.
'Stalker' letter: Cook told jurors he found a "stalker" letter on two of Brian Hummert's computers, as well as on a zip disk. In the two computers and the zip disk, the letter is prefaced by a paragraph purportedly written by Brian Hummert, explaining the letter was found at side door of his home.
Cook also said a recordable CD seized from the Hummert home contained six scanned-in glamour photos of Charlene Hummert, plus a computer "paint" version of each photo. Cook also said two other CDs seized from the Hummert home were exact copies of the first CD.
Charlene Hummert had the photos taken as a Christmas gift for her husband, according to testimony.
Several of the "stalker" letters left for the Hummert family included photocopies of Charlene's glamour shots that had been ripped up and pieced together haphazardly.
Daughter speaks: The Hummerts' daughter, Tracey Hummert, was the only defense witness to testify on Monday before trial ended for the day.
She was 18 when her mother was killed, and said the last time she spoke with her mother was when Charlene called her, angry at Tracey's choice of a boyfriend and angry that Tracey wanted a new car. That conversation happened a few hours after Charlene was last seen.
"I was terrified to go home," Tracey Hummert testified, and called her father to say she'd be spending the night at her boyfriend's house.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Tuesday after at least one more defense witness.
-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.