HAMMOND — U.S. District Court jurors found a Latin Kings street member guilty Tuesday afternoon of a notorious double murder two decades ago.
Jurors deliberated about five hours Tuesday before convicting Jeremiah S. Farmer, 38, of Hammond, of a brutal sledgehammer attack June 25, 1999, on Marion Lowry and Harvey Siegers at Calumet Auto Rebuilders, 5105 Calumet Ave., where they worked.
The jury also found him guilty of possessing and distributing marijuana and cocaine.
Farmer faces a lengthy imprisonment when U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon sentences him Oct. 24.
Assistant U.S. attorneys David Nozick and Nicholas Padilla convinced a 12-juror panel after 10 days of testimony and argument that Farmer killed the victims in what police believe was a senseless crime.
Farmer was long known before the crime as a member of a local chapter of the Latin Kings and had been arrested and charged as a juvenile multiple times in the 1990s.
Hammond police said their investigation found Farmer walked into the auto shop that morning and accosted owner Lowry, 74, of Hammond, and co-worker Siegers, 66, of Orland Park, Illinois.
He accused them of having witnessed him commit a crime and when the men said they did not know what he was talking about, Farmer demanded their money, then fatally beat them with a sledgehammer.
Police said they found the hammer and bloodstained money in a Hammond alley in the 800 block between Wilcox and Michigan streets as well as Farmer’s sports cap and sunglasses at the murder scene.
Hammond Detective Thomas Grabowski testified Monday eyewitnesses saw a man run from the crime scene, but no one could identify anyone definitively.
Grabowski told jurors police felt a special urge to solve the crime because Hammond police had used the auto repair shop for their police cars.
Grabowski said Farmer was among several men they first considered suspects, but police didn’t have enough evidence to charge him. They tried to make a case on at least two other men, but their investigation eliminated those two as suspects.
His defense attorney, Gregory T. Mitchell, challenged the credibility of the Hammond police investigation, questioning why they pivoted from other potential suspects two years later to target Farmer.
Grabowski, a 35-year police veteran, answered police often have to eliminate a number of false leads and potential suspects before finding the most culpable person to charge.
He said the case had languished until 2001 when police received an anonymous letter stating Farmer had been bragging about committing the Auto Repairers murders.
He said Farmer fled the area after a sketch of the suspect in the homicides was released to the public.
Jim Gilliam, who lived in rural Newton County, said he overheard Farmer tell others at a 2001 party, that two of the three teardrops he had tattooed on his face represented people he killed.
The Lake County prosecutor charged Farmer with the double murder in 2001, but had to dismiss the case a year later. Nozick said fellow Latin Kings intimidated or bribed witnesses against Farmer into silence.
The U.S. Attorney’s office charged Farmer in 2015 with conspiring with 40 other Latin Kings. The case languished for years on whether Farmer had the mental competency to be tried.
Farmer declined to take the witness stand in his own defense, but did taunt federal prosecutors in the courtroom, whispering across courtroom tables that the government’s case was weak.
U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch said, “I am very pleased with the guilty verdict announced today and with the work of Assistant United States Attorneys David Nozick and Nicholas Padilla in presenting this case to the jury over the past several weeks. The victims’ families have waited a long time for this day. My office will continue to aggressively prosecute cases involving violent street gangs and senseless acts of gang violence and bring these criminal gang members to justice.”