HAMMOND — The trial of a Hammond man charged with a notorious double murder two decades ago began Monday in U.S. District Court.
Assistant U.S. attorneys David Nozick and Nicholas Padilla are set to make opening arguments Tuesday accusing Jeremiah S. Farmer, 38, with brutally and senselessly killing Marion Lowry and Harvey Siegers on June 25, 1999, at Calumet Auto Rebuilders, 5105 Calumet Ave.
Uncooperative witnesses and Farmer’s erratic behavior while acting as his own lawyer have played roles in delaying justice in a case that has been in and out of both state and federal courts for many years.
Farmer is now being defended by defense attorney Gregory T. Nichols who is expected to make his opening argument that Farmer suffers from personality disorders that make him an easy target for false accusations.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon has already ruled Farmer is mentally competent to stand trial.
Attorneys for the prosecution and defense selected 12 jurors and three alternates.
Hammond police and the Lake County prosecutor’s office first accused Farmer, an admitted member of the Chicago-based Latin Kings street gang, with killing his victims as part of his gang duties to intimidate the community and retaliate against witnesses to gang crimes.
They allege Farmer killed Lowry, 74, of Hammond and Siegers, 66, of Orland Park, Illinois, because he was under the mistaken belief they had witnessed him committing a crime
Hammond Detectives Thomas Grabowski and Anthony Adam first accused Farmer with walking into Calumet Auto Rebuilders the morning of June 25, 1999, and accosting owner Lowry and co-worker Siegers.
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Farmer falsely accused the men of talking to police about having seen him shooting out of a car, the detectives said, 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.
Police said Farmer fled to Daytona Beach, Florida, after a sketch of the suspect in the homicides was released to the public.
Police said he had two teardrops tattooed on his face to commemorate his role in the two men's murders sometime before his arrest in 2001.
The Lake County prosecutor charged Farmer with the double murder in 2001, but had to dismiss the case a year later after witnesses refused to cooperate.
The U.S. Attorney’s office charged Farmer in 2015 with conspiring with 40 other Latin King members with various acts of robbery, assault, intimidation, witness tampering and drug dealing as part of a criminal racketeering organization and recharged Farmer separately last year with the auto shop homicides.
U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch II said a federal investigation uncovered evidence Mark A. Toney, a 39-year-old Latin Kings member, silenced a key state's witness in the 2001 state court case.
Toney allegedly confronted a witness in 2001 and threatened to burn down a witness’ house and rape his wife and daughters if he cooperated with the earlier state prosecution. Toney is pleading not guilty and awaiting trial.