Daily News Journal, May 31, 2016
RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Former MTSU history professor James Huhta — the driving force behind the creation of MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation — is being charged in the stabbing death of his wife, Mary Huhta, 79, according to Rose Anne Brown, public information officer for the Riviera Beach Police Department in Riviera Beach, Fla.
The incident occurred Friday at the Huhtas’ Singer Island condominium, where they live part of the year to be near grandchildren.
Police believe James Huhta fatally stabbed his wife in bed before jumping out the second-floor window of their Florida condominium.
“Fire and Rescue responded to a call about an unresponsive man,” Brown told The Daily News Journal. “We found him barely conscious. He had either fallen or jumped from the second story.”
While James Huhta was being transported to the hospital, the maintenance workers who had found him in the bushes went upstairs to tell his wife, Brown said. They found her in bed, unresponsive, with a knife nearby.
“She was declared dead at the scene,” Brown said. “It appeared she may have been stabbed.”
Brown said the exact cause of death would be determined by the medical examiner and that James Huhta was listed in stable condition Monday evening at St. Mary’s Medical Center.
“He is being charged with murder,” she said.
The case is mystifying for the police department.
“There are no records of domestic disturbances,” Brown said. “We have no experience with them, nothing that we are aware of that would point to something like this.”
The Huhtas were significant contributors to the preservation cause, both in Middle Tennessee and nationwide. James Huhta saw the establishment of MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation, and Mary Huhta was a former Murfreesboro City Council member.
“The Huhtas were like grandparents to me and meant more to me than they probably realized,” said Justin Holder, a Murfreesboro resident. “They were incredible listeners and always had feedback for me, whether positive or critical. I appreciated their candor and their life experiences they would share.
“When we lived across the street, I’d go over for a few hours almost every day and catch up with them,” he said.
Not growing up around his real grandparents, Holder said the Huhtas filled that need for him.
“They were that and more to my wife and me,” he said. “Mary was a true trailblazer in our community, from her work on the city council, to helping form the League of Women voters, to fighting the airport regardless of its popularity, to her time in real estate. Mary taught me to not be bogged down with what people will think, but rather focus on what’s right and true to yourself and your character. I loved her blunt way and genuine honesty.”
Holder said he saw Mary Huhta less than a month ago.
“I saw Mary last about three weeks ago at lunch at The Alley on Main,” he said. “She was looking forward to returning to Florida, where they spend the majority of the summer with their granddaughters. They were incredibly devoted to those girls.”