By ANDREA MCCANN
MEROM, Ind. — The death of a retired farmer, Lowell R. Badger, 85, of rural Sullivan County, has been ruled a homicide, and law enforcement officials are leaving no stone unturned in the search for the person(s) responsible.
Badger’s son found him deceased on the floor near the living room entrance to his bedroom at 9:23 a.m. Dec. 8, during a routine visit. The victim was clothed, and there were visible signs of trauma.
Following an autopsy performed Dec. 10 at Terre Haute Regional Hospital by pathologist Dr. Roland Kohr, Sullivan County Coroner Jeff Griffith announced the manner of death as homicide and cause of death as a gunshot wound.
“How he came into contact with the intruder is unclear,” said Sgt. Joe Watts, of the Indiana State Police (ISP) Putnamville Post. He said it’s also unknown how many intruders there were.
ISP detectives from the Putnamville Post, with the assistance of the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, are investigating Badger’s death. To protect the integrity of the investigation, police are not releasing the caliber of the ammunition, the location of the gunshot wound or other details of the incident.
They did say electronics and other items were missing from the residence, but Watts said tools and equipment in the barns were undisturbed. One missing item is Badger’s black Sony Bravia 46-inch LCD television.
Police are asking anyone with knowledge of a friend, relative, acquaintance or pawnshop recently obtaining one in a suspicious or questionable manner to contact ISP First Sergeant Jeff Hearon or Detective Tom Hanks at 765-653-4114. Tips can remain anonymous.
Investigators are conducting interviews, and they’re receiving leads but no arrests had been made at press time. In the meantime, donations from individuals, businesses and organizations continue to build a sizeable reward for information leading to the perpetrator’s arrest.
“Monetary donations from the Sullivan County community and local businesses have been exceptional,” Watts said last week. “Through the donations and the combined effort of 1st Financial, Sullivan County Credit Union, Indiana Farm Bureau (IFB) and Wabash Valley Crime Stoppers, the reward amount as of now is $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those person(s) responsible for the death of Lowell Badger.”
IFB is offering a cash reward up to $2,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of those responsible. Tips may be submitted by contacting the IFB Legal Affairs Team at 317-692-7840 or through www.farm bureau.org
Mark Thornburg, IFB legal counsel, said IFB has had a reward fund set up for some time with the purpose of property protection. Though the Badger case was a violent crime, there also was property taken, so the reward will apply in this case, he explained.
“We’ve known for a long time that in remote areas there are not as many potential eyewitnesses,” he continued. “We want to keep people vigilant to watch out for their neighbors. Not every tip is useful, but you want people to relay what they know that could lead to an arrest and conviction.”
Badger was a past Sullivan County Farm Bureau president and District 7 director for many years, according to board member Jamie Mason, and he hopes the reward opportunity will entice someone to come forward.
To help sweeten the pot, the county Farm Bureau also has a reward fund. It’s set up for “acts against farmers and agriculture,” according to Mason, and people wishing to donate to the fund can call 812-268-4339.
“We saw a need for it,” he said. “Stuff like this doesn’t happen here. We’ve never had a need for it before, and I hope we never have a need for it again, but it’s there if the need should arise.”
According to Mason and Watts, the community is outraged and has come together with donations to reward funds and potential leads in an effort to find the person responsible for Badger’s death.
“He was very heavily involved in just about everything,” Mason said. “He was very, very involved in the community, and for this to happen kind of put everyone into shock.
“The state police are definitely working on it. They’re at the courthouse every day here in Sullivan.”
Wabash Valley Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for tips leading to an arrest. Contact them at 812-238-7867, 800-222-8477 or through www.wvcrimestoppers.org
Two financial institutions also are collecting funds to assist law enforcement with the search and to pay for information leading to an arrest. Sullivan County Credit Union and 1st Financial Banking Center both are accepting monetary donations for the Lowell Badger Reward Fund.
Questions concerning Sullivan County Credit Union should be directed to manager Carol McKinney at 812-268-1196.
Questions concerning 1st Financial should be directed to Mike Lueking or Duane Wampler at 812-268-3331.