She is a survivor who decided at age 13 to be who and what she is today. She has been and is still determined not to be dependent on others – ever. “I’m seriously independent and that intimidates a lot of people,” she says.
Her name is Nina Renee Hummel, 34, born and reared near the coast of southern Maine in Topsham, a Knoxvillian since Jan. 23, 2010. And since April 27, 2010, she has been with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. After three years in corrections and 6 ½ on patrol, she joined the KCSO’s Family Crimes Unit in February 2020.
It is her professional home now, a dream come true, a goal attained, yet all roads in her life lead back to her dysfunctional childhood and family. “Addiction ripped my family apart. Good, bad or indifferent, who I am leads back home. Talk about a volatile home life. That was me. But it helped me figure out who I was going to be.”
Her father and younger brother are in prison, both serving time for drug-related crimes. Her mother has been the victim of multiple incidents of domestic violence over 30 years. “I decided I had to get away from the family. I did my homework, made good grades and took care of myself.”
It was a struggle to lead a normal life in Maine, but she tried and tried. “I was a band geek and played the clarinet first and then the baritone saxophone in the concert band and symphony orchestra and loved it,” she says. “I still have a lot of dear friends there.” She finished high school in 2004 and was off to college. She was a 2008 cum laude graduate of Husson University in Bangor with a degree in criminal justice and a minor in behavioral science.
During college she worked at JOANN Fabrics and was an embroiderer at L.L. Bean. All of that led her into the world of quilting. Her 14th birthday gift was a sewing machine and for 18 years she’s been a quilter. She’s also into crafts. That and her two dogs and two cats are how she relaxes from what is often tense, at times even depressing, and tough work – or as she calls it – “de-stressing from work.”
Hummel knew as a young teen that she had to start anew, somewhere else. She searched for a job in law enforcement in Maine and, with no experience, had no luck. Knoxville and San Antonio ended up on her radar. She had a relative here, so here she has been for 11 years now.
Hummel became one of the 10 detectives in the Family Crimes Unit just 15 months ago and has already been honored twice as the Detective of the Month (September 2020 and March 2021). Her new nickname is “Superstar.”
Earlier this year following a welfare check, Hummel began investigating the case of an elderly man who had taken in a family he was related to by marriage. Mom and Dad and three kids. Suffering from dementia, he could not protect himself. Hummel’s hours of work led to charges of the financial exploitation of an elder adult and identity theft.
In short, classic elder abuse. A family crime. His money disappeared. The case against the husband and wife is now in the hands of the Knox County District Attorney’s office awaiting trial. Hummel’s persistent and careful work on this case led to her being honored in March.
“I have 11 case files on my desk right now that I’m working on. Our unit stays very busy, to say the least. And that’s sad.”
This KCSO detective’s heart, soul and passion are invested in her work. “I have the single most rewarding job I could have … but at times it’s so frustrating,” she says. “But then you get a case where you know you have made a major difference in someone’s life and then it’s worth your whole career, and so meaningful … I just want victims to know there are people in their corner, fighting for them.”