Family, friends set to say final farewell to Haverstraw slay victim

The casket of Tammy Palmer, 39, is carried The casket of Tammy Palmer, 39, is carried out of St. Gregory Barbarigo Catholic Church in Garnerville after the funeral mass. (Sept. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: John Meore

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Family and friends will say a final farewell Saturday to Tammy Palmer, fatally shot Monday at her Haverstraw home.

Her killer remains on the loose. As search efforts wound down Friday night for the 73-year-old murder suspect in Harriman State Park, police remained hopeful Eugene Palmer would surrender on his own after spending nearly five days on the run.

Three police cars -- including a K-9 unit -- patrolled the perimeter of the parkland until at least midnight, Town of Haverstraw Police Chief Charles Miller told Newsday Friday evening.

"We'll meet again around 8 in the morning to decide what our strategy is," Miller said.

Family and friends of Palmer -- who is suspected of fatally shooting his daughter-in-law Tammy Palmer, 39, on Monday morning -- gave police conflicting statements Friday on where they think he might be, Miller said.

"Some believe that he hurt himself already and some say 'No, he didn't,'" Miller explained. "Everybody is speculating, nobody has seen or talked to him as far as we know. We haven't gotten anything new tonight and I still believe he's in the woods and that's what we're going to go on right now."

Due to manpower and weather issues, the likeliness of sending officers back into the woods Saturday was slim.

"We're hoping that he realizes that we're not hunting him down and just decides to come out. He's been in there long enough," Miller said. "We'll be back in the morning to start all over again. Hopefully, one day we'll get lucky."

Earlier Friday evening, dozens of teary-eyed mourners flocked to a Garnerville funeral home to pay their respects to Tammy Palmer, the Haverstraw mother of two who police say was gunned down by Eugene Palmer in the home she was living in on his property.

Among those who turned up at the T.J. McGowan Sons Funeral Home were teachers and students from North Rockland High School, where Tammy Palmer's 16-year-old daughter, Rosemarie, is a student.

Officers in marked police cars were parked nearby, to ensure safety.

The funeral will be held Saturday at St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish in Garnerville.

Besides Rosemarie, Tammy Palmer leaves behind a son, 12-year-old John. Both children are now in the care of their maternal grandparents after a Rockland judge on Thursday awarded the couple custody.

Tammy Palmer's family said she had a dispute with her father-in-law, Eugene Palmer, over criminal charges against his son for alleged domestic abuse that the older Palmer wanted her to drop.

Meanwhile, some five miles away from where the mourners gathered, authorities on Friday positioned themselves around the perimeter of Harriman State Park, where police believe Eugene Palmer, 73, may be hiding.

"We just have some roving patrols out there today," town of Haverstraw Chief of Police Charles Miller told Newsday Friday afternoon. "Unless we get a sighting of him, we're not putting officers in the woods because of the weather. I don't want to risk throwing anyone in danger."

Miller said he thought there is a possibility the fugitive, who is diabetic, could be squatting in one of the buildings around the park.

"I want them driving the roads and checking some of the buildings surrounding the park," Miller said. "There's a lot of vacant buildings up there and he could be in any of them."

The State Police's helicopter -- equipped with thermal imaging technology -- was used Thursday but was unsuccessful, Miller said. The chopper was grounded Friday due to the inclement weather.

As for the length of time that Eugene Palmer could sustain himself in the woods, Miller said, "It could be a long time."

Until stormy weather hit Thursday, officials had scoured the woods of Harriman State Park in their hunt for Eugene Palmer.

Miller said a son and a nephew of Eugene Palmer continued to search the forest for him Thursday night and again Friday, but turned up empty-handed.

The police chief downplayed reports that Eugene Palmer might have headed for the Adirondacks, where he has a hunting cabin.

"I still believe he's in the woods here in Harriman," Miller said. "Could he have gotten out and gotten a ride 200 miles up there? It's doubtful, though possible."

"Just to cover our bases" police have informed State Police in the Adirondacks to be on the lookout for Palmer, Miller said.

Police consider the suspect, an avid outdoorsman who knows the woods of Harriman State Park well, to be armed and dangerous.

Investigators have Eugene Palmer's cellphone, which he left behind in his house, but are waiting for a judge to grant them permission to look through it, according to Miller.

Eugene Palmer was last reported seen by his sister, Elaine Palmer Babcock, who told police that he had come to her nearby house after the shooting to give her money to pay taxes on his property.

Since then, the only verified sign of the fugitive was his green Dodge Ram pickup truck, which was found Tuesday with the keys still in the ignition in the woods about half a mile from where the killing occurred.

With John Meore

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