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Haverstraw murder suspect Eugene Palmer to granddaughter: 'I'm going to take your mother down'

Rosemarie Palmer, John Pannirello and Violet Pannirello hold

Rosemarie Palmer, John Pannirello and Violet Pannirello hold a photo of Tammy Palmer, who was found murdered near her home in the Town of Haverstraw. (Sept. 25, 2012) Photo Credit: Sarah Armaghan

Sixteen-year-old Rosemarie Palmer's connection with her mother ran so deep that when school security pulled her out of her third-period psychology class, she knew something had happened to her best friend.

"The first thing I asked was, 'Where's my mom?' " Palmer said. "I just started crying and freaking out, saying, 'She's not dead! She's not dead!' "

It was moments later when her father, John Palmer, confirmed her worst fear.

"He said, 'Your grandfather shot your mother. He killed her,' " the Haverstraw teen told Newsday in an exclusive interview.

As she spent Tuesday trying to make sense of what had happened, police scoured Harriman State Park on a manhunt for her grandfather, Eugene Palmer, who is wanted in the fatal shooting of her mother, Tammy Palmer, at their home the day before.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday, authorities found Eugene Palmer's green Dodge Ram pickup truck with the keys still in the ignition. It was parked off a dirt path about half a mile from where the killing occurred. The search continued until dusk, with no further sign of the 73-year-old fugitive.

"He's psycho; he's no good," Rosemarie Palmer said of her grandfather. "I wish the worst on him. She didn't deserve that. She's still young. She had a whole life ahead of her."

Rosemarie Palmer's emotions teetered on Tuesday between the anger she felt for her grandfather and the pain of losing her mother.

"My mom was more than a mother to me. She was my best friend," Rosemarie Palmer said. "We did everything together. We would go shopping together. I loved to do hair so she would let me do her hair ... I love her so much."

"She meant the world to me," the teen said. "It's going to kill me to put her in the ground."

Victim, in-laws had feuded, family says

Tammy Palmer's parents believe that the killing was a result of domestic problems. Her parents, John and Violet Pannirello of Stony Point, said their daughter wanted a divorce because she believed that her husband of 17 years had repeatedly been unfaithful to her. Their arguments escalated to the point where John Palmer, 39, beat up his wife, the Pannirellos said. Tammy Palmer, also 39, ended up taking out an order of protection against him about a month ago, officials said.

Tammy Palmer then started getting into fights with Eugene Palmer, who wanted her to drop the criminal charges against his son, but she refused, her family said.

On Friday, Eugene Palmer paid the petite Tammy Palmer a visit with a gun and threatened her as she tried to defend herself with a stick, according to the Pannirellos.

"On Friday, my grandfather said to me, 'I'm going to take your mother down, Rose. Mark my words: I'm going to take her down,' and he did," Rosemarie Palmer said. "I don't have my mother anymore."

Tammy Palmer eventually was able to escape that encounter to her parents' home unharmed.

Three days later, however, after Rosemarie and her brother, 12-year-old John, left for school, Eugene Palmer allegedly paid his daughter-in-law another visit at the 570 Willow Grove Rd. home he owned and where Tammy Palmer lived with her estranged husband and children.

Police responding to the house on a report of shots fired found Tammy Palmer shot to death and shortly thereafter launched their dragnet for her suspected killer.

"I hope the cops catch him and he's alive," said Violet Pannirello, 72. "I want to face him. I want to see him in handcuffs and his feet shackled. I need to face the man who killed my daughter."

Pannirello and her husband went to family court Tuesday in the hopes of gaining custody of their grandchildren, who had been in the care of their father since the killing. A judge granted the Pannirellos temporary custody, but the couple are due back in court on Thursday for another hearing. They said they will seek full custody of the kids.

In the meantime, Tammy Palmer's family is preparing to say its final farewells. A wake will be held for her from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at T.J. McGowan Sons Funeral Home at 133 Broadway in Garnerville. The funeral be held there Saturday, but the time hasn't been determined. She will be buried at Mount Repose Cemetery in Haverstraw.

Manhunt for the suspect continues

Authorities are expected to return to Harriman State Park on Wednesday to continue their search for Eugene Palmer, who police say is armed and dangerous. A shotgun and rifle are missing from his house, said Town of Haverstraw Police Chief Charles Miller.

The vastness of Harriman State Park -- which has 31 lakes and reservoirs and 200 miles of hiking trails -- makes the search for the suspect challenging.

Eugene Palmer "grew up in the area. His family originated in the area, so he probably knows the woods better than I know some of Haverstraw," Miller said earlier at a morning news conference in the park.

Police said that John Palmer was cooperating in efforts to track down his father and that Eugene Palmer's family members were also in the woods Tuesday searching.

"They're cooperating with us as best they can, but they're not telling us all his favorite spots," Miller said.

Town of Haverstraw police, the State Park police, the State Police, the Rockland County Sheriff's Department, bloodhounds from Westchester County, K-9 units from Suffern and other municipalities are all participating in the manhunt, Miller said.

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 Monday to give her money to pay taxes on his property.

Meanwhile, Eugene Palmer's car was towed Tuesday to a Rockland County sheriff's office facility, where a thorough search of the interior of the vehicle will be conducted.

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