News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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December 15, 2012

No stone unturned: Search party digs for evidence at site of suspected homicide in Sullivan County

TERRE HAUTE — The search for clues in the still-unsolved homicide of Lowell Badger, a retired Sullivan County farmer who was shot in his home a week ago, was a full-blown community effort Friday.

More than 100 people, mostly neighbors and family of Badger’s, gathered at his unassuming two-story farmhouse west of Graysville for a police-organized search of the vast and mostly wide-open farmland nearby.

Police sent volunteer searchers out in teams of six to eight people to comb the roadsides across a two-square-mile area. Sullivan County Sheriff Bryan Kinnett asked them to report anything that might have come from inside the Badger home, including weapons, electronic devices or documents.

Within a short time, they started reporting items to police.

“It may not be anything, but we have to tell them what we see,” said volunteer searcher Randy Nichols as he stood over a blue surgical glove he found along a roadway about a mile north of the scene of the crime. A sheriff’s deputy soon collected the glove in a plastic evidence bag and took it back to the driveway of the Badger home, which was serving as the search headquarters.

Meanwhile, about a half-mile to the south and east of the Badger home, Larry Arnett discovered a butter knife lying in roadside gravel. The knife appeared as if it were recently dropped and was soon collected as potential evidence.

In all, searchers reported about 20 items to police during the roughly three-hour search, said Sgt. Joe Watts of the Indiana State Police, who was one of the organizers of the effort. Those items will be examined and, if found to be significant, sent to a police lab, he said.

“It was a good day,” Watts said at the conclusion of the search. “We covered all the area we wanted to cover.”

The large number of volunteers shows the community’s respect for the Badger family, Watts said. It also shows that people are willing to help when tragedy strikes.

Badger, 85, was discovered shot to death in his isolated farmhouse last Saturday morning about 9 a.m. Police believe the shooting took place in the 13 hours before Badger’s body was discovered.

A 46-inch Sony flat screen television was reportedly taken at the same time of the shooting.

Apart from potential evidence uncovered in Friday’s search, other new leads in the case were reported to police on Friday, Watts said. “People are talking,” he said. “We want them to keep talking.”

Several area organizations, individuals and businesses have joined forces to offer a $25,000 reward for anyone providing information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

“This is a close-knit community,” said Susan Burton, who was searching a roadway and bridge near the Badger home. Her son, Solly, meanwhile, was wading in a creek below the bridge, looking into the shallow water for anything that could help police. “We’ve lost our innocence with this,” she said.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the Putnamville State Police Post at (765) 653-4114. Tips may remain anonymous. Tips may also be reported to Wabash Valley Crime Stoppers at (812) 238-STOP (7867) or 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) on online at www.wvcrimestoppers.org.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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