HAMMOND — A federal jury is set to begin deliberating Tuesday whether a heavily-tattooed street gang member committed a notorious double murder two decades ago.
Both prosecution and defense rested their cases Monday afternoon on the ninth day of the trial of Jeremiah S. Farmer, 38, of Hammond.
The government is seeking his conviction on charges he fatally beat Marion Lowry and Harvey Siegers at Calumet Auto Rebuilders, 5105 Calumet Ave., in 1999.
Farmer declined Monday to testify on his own behalf, avoiding the prospect of facing cross-examination by Assistant U.S. attorneys David Nozick.
There was nothing silent about Farmer’s court demeanor. He shook his head in disbelief of some testimony and muttering “What a case!” from the defense table.
He spoke with federal prosecutor Nozick during a break in testimony and could be heard saying, "Nice case. No way you can win.”
Farmer also declined the traditional suit and tie, opting instead for a red flannel shirt, dark casual pants and a shaved head bearing large crown tattoos on his face and neck. His hands were heavily tattooed as well.
His defense attorney, Gregory T. Mitchell, spent Monday morning questioning not only retired Hammond Detective Thomas Grabowski, but also the credibility of the Hammond police investigation that targeted Farmer.
Police allege Farmer walked into the shop and killed business owner Lowry, 74, of Hammond, and co-worker Siegers, 66, of Orland Park, Illinois, demanded their money, then fatally beat them with a sledgehammer after accusing them of having witnessed one of his previous crimes. Jurors were told Farmer had a number of juvenile delinquency arrests.
Police, who previously used the auto shop to repair squad cars, 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.
Grabowski said eyewitnesses saw a man run from the crime scene, but no one could identify anyone definitively.
He said Farmer was among several men they first considered suspects, but police didn’t have enough evidence to charge him. They were able to eliminate at least two other men as having been involved.
The defense attorney hammered away at why police chose to pivot away from other suspects and toward Farmer.
Grabowski, who testified he had investigated about 100 homicides and thousands of other crimes during 35 years of police investigations, testified police often have to eliminate a number of false leads and potential suspects before finding the most culpable person to charge.
The case languished until police received an anonymous letter in 2001.
The writer stated, “Last year, I heard of a kid bragging about being the murderer…I seen the Hammond Times' most-wanted pics the other day and I realized the guy who was bragging fit the description to a T. The guy I am talking about is a Latin King from Indiana Street and his name is Jeremy Farmer.”
Police said Farmer fled the area after a sketch of the suspect in the homicides was released to the public.
Jim Gilliam, who lived in 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 King members. The case languished for years on whether Farmer had the mental competency to be tried.