There was an empty seat at Wednesday’s meeting of the Sullivan County Credit Union board of directors.
Lowell R. Badger, 85, had served on the board for 28 years. But instead of talking to Badger, board members could only reminisce about him — with utmost respect, sympathy and shock at his tragic death.
Badger, a retired farmer who lived near Merom, was found dead on the floor of his bedroom Saturday morning. An autopsy showed that he died from a gunshot wound, and Sullivan County Coroner Jeff Griffith ruled the death a homicide.
Indiana State Police detectives from the Putnamville Post, with the assistance of the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office, continue to investigate Badger’s death.
Investigators are “working around the clock to solve this crime,” said Sgt. Joe Watts, ISP public information officer. Tips are coming in and people are being interviewed, “but none of the tips have lead us to a suspect.”
Detectives are requesting assistance from the public in finding a television taken during the homicide. Stolen was Badger’s black, Sony Bravia 46-inch LCD television. Anyone who has knowledge of a friend, relative, acquaintance, pawn shop, etc. who recently obtained this type of television in a suspicious or questionable manner is urged to contact ISP 1st Sgt. Jeff Hearon or Detective Tom Hanks at the ISP Putnamville Post, 765-653-4114. Tips can remain anonymous.
The homicide is believed to have occurred sometime between 8 p.m. Friday and 9:23 a.m. Saturday.
Meanwhile, those who knew Badger are coming to grips with the terrible tragedy.
“We’re at a total loss. We’re all devastated,” said Carol McKinney, the credit union’s chief executive officer. She lives within a few miles of Badger’s home and attended church with him every Sunday. He was a family friend, she said.
“Our sympathy goes out to his wonderful family,” McKinney said. “He was one of the most respected and most Christian men I have ever known and I can say that from the bottom of my heart,” she said.
The credit union has joined forces with First Financial Bank of Sullivan, and both are now accepting contributions to the newly-created Lowell Badger Reward Fund, which as of Wednesday at noon had already raised $15,000. The fund has been established by community members.
Funds from the account will assist law enforcement in the search for the person(s) responsible for the death of Badger and to pay a reward for information which leads to an arrest and conviction in the death of Badger.
Individuals can make monetary donations at any First Financial banking center or the Sullivan County Credit Union.
McKinney said the credit union board “wants to do whatever we can” to try and help find those responsible for such an unthinkable act. “We want to see justice done,” she said.
Mike Lueking, regional vice president for First Financial Bank in Sullivan, said boards of the two financial institutions met Wednesday.
He also knew Badger and was friends with his kids. “We’ve been family friends for years,” Lueking said. Badger “was one of the most highly respected men I know. He’s been involved in the community all these years and served on all kinds of local and state boards.”
Badger was a leader at his church, Kingsley Memorial United Methodist Church, and involved with Farm Bureau.
Lueking said he was approached within hours after news of the death became public, and community members told him, “We have to post some money to get someone to talk.”
The fact that the fund was already up to $15,000 Wednesday shows how much respect they had for Badger and how strongly they feel about “this senseless act,” Lueking said.
“Nobody feels comfortable in our county anymore,” he said. Badger “did nothing wrong to anybody,” yet someone “robbed and shot him … it’s just a terrible deal.”
McKinney said everyone in the rural farming community near Graysville and Merom has been affected by the senseless killing, and “people are concerned for their own safety.”
Two other reward funds also are being used in the death investigation.
The Wabash Valley Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for tips leading to an arrest. Persons with information can submit their tips by calling crime stoppers at 812-238-STOP (7867) or 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or by submitting their tips online at http://www.wvcrimestop
pers.org/. Those providing information can remain anonymous.
Indiana Farm Bureau is also offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect in the case. Tips may be submitted to IFB Legal Affairs, 225 S. East St., Box 1290, Indianapolis, 46206, or by calling 317-692-7840. Information may also be submitted online at www.infarmbureau.com.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.