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May 27, 2014

Victim’s sister says she forgives suspect

TERRE HAUTE — Louise Watkins said she forgives the man who allegedly murdered her big sister, Cindy Farmer, nearly 34 years ago.

“I couldn’t carry that bitterness with me,” Watkins said in an interview Tuesday, several hours after Terre Haute police conducted a news conference announcing a major development in the cold case. Without forgiveness, “I couldn’t be the happy-go-lucky person I am.”

A California prison inmate, Harry L. Rowley, faces two murder charges in connection with the July 1980 slayings of  Lucinda Farmer and Mary Quillen, roommates who had attended and graduated from Indiana State University.

Their bodies were found in an alley behind their apartment building in the 600 block of North 14th Street. Both had been shot to death. Quillen was 28 at the time of her death, and Farmer was 29.

Watkins said she’s bought a Bible for Rowley that she hopes to give to him in person. She wants to face him. If he’s not extradited from California, she will mail it to him.

But she does regret all the years she hasn’t been able to spend with her big sister. Watkins’ two sons and her granddaughters never got to meet her.

And Watkins said her father died at age 62, about two years after her sister. “He went downhill,” she said. The family is from Avon, where Watkins still lives.

Rowley, the accused, “hurt a lot of people”  with his actions in July 1980, she said.

Her sister had graduated from Indiana State University and had landed a position with the Vigo County School Corp. as a junior high art teacher. She would have started in fall 1980. “She was very excited about it,” Watkins said. Her sister was a talented artist who also liked to garden.

Farmer had just celebrated her birthday on June 22, 1980, and was working to lose some weight and already had some success. “Everything was going her way,” Watkins said. Her sister also had been a Girl Scout leader.

At the time of her death, Farmer worked in a grocery chain bakery decorating cakes.

Watkins said her big sister used to spoil her when they were younger, and Watkins — who had just graduated from college herself when her sister died — wanted to spoil her back.

But someone took her sister’s life. “I’ll never forget the morning when we got the phone call,” she said. “It’s like it was yesterday.”

One of her brothers had to identify Cindy.

Mary “Missy” Quillen, who was visually impaired, obtained a degree in social work at ISU, Watkins said. One news report indicated that Farmer had served as Quillen’s reader during their college years. “They helped each other out,” Watkins said.

Watkins recalled that “Missy was like family. Wherever Cindy was, Missy was. They were together,” she said. When Cindy came home to Avon to visit, Missy also came.

“They were really good friends,” Watkins said.

Watkins said that for many years, she would contact the Terre Haute Police Department on July 4 about the case; her sister was killed on that date.

For a while, she stopped.

Last year, she emailed the department again, asking, “Have you forgotten? … It means something to me. It’s my sister.”

Since last summer, she has stayed in touch with Lt. Ed Tompkins, who re-opened the case in 2010. She is grateful for his persistence in the case, which resulted in an arrest warrant for Rowley on two counts of murder.

“I can’t thank him enough,” Watkins said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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