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Haverstraw slay suspect gave kin tax payment, victim's parents say

Tammy Palmer 39, left, was found slain behind

Tammy Palmer 39, left, was found slain behind a house at 571 Willow Grove Rd. in the Town of Haverstraw. Palmer's father-in-law, Eugene Palmer (pictured at right), is a suspect in the slaying, and police are actively searching for him. (Sept. 24, 2012) Photo Credit: News12/handout

The man wanted in the Monday morning slaying of his daughter-in-law in the Town of Haverstraw went to his sister's house after the shooting and gave her a property tax payment before fleeing, according to the parents of the slain woman.

Town of Haverstraw police and Rockland County sheriff's deputies launched a dragnet for 73-year-old Eugene Palmer, described as an avid hunter. News12 reported that the search extended to Harriman State Park, less than a mile from the site of the shooting.

Tammy Palmer, 39, was found dead at 9 a.m. behind a house at 570 Willow Grove Rd. after gunshots were reported, police said.

Tammy Palmer's parents, Violet and John Pannirello of Stony Point, said they would seek custody of their daughter's children -- Johnnie, 13, and Rosemarie, 16 -- at a hearing Tuesday in Rockland County Family Court.

"We're going to fight for them," John Pannirello said. "Nobody is getting those kids."

The Pannirellos said Eugene Palmer's sister, Elaine Palmer Wheeler Babcock, told them he had come to her nearby house after the shooting and delivered money to pay taxes on his property. Laura Fernandez, a friend of Tammy Palmer who arrived at her house to comfort the family, described the victim as a "real down-to-earth person."

"She was a great woman," Fernandez said. "Always smiling, always laughing. She adored her children."

Helicopters were hovering over the property about half a mile from Harriman State Park. Police said Eugene Palmer was believed to be heading in the direction of Ramapo, possibly in a Dodge Ram pickup truck.

Tammy Palmer lived on her father-in-law's sprawling, wooded property, which included the Willow Grove address, along with her estranged husband, John Palmer.

John Pannirello said his daughter recently got a restraining order against her husband and wanted a divorce. He speculated that the shooting was related to their domestic difficulties.

Police said John Palmer was cooperating in efforts to track down his father.

Town of Haverstraw Police Chief Charles Miller said police received a report from a neighbor at about 7:40 a.m. of three shots fired and screaming at Eugene Palmer's property, which is about half a mile from Lake Welch.

As Tammy Palmer's body lay on the side of the house at midmorning, her distraught mother, Violet Pannirello, cried out, "I want to see my daughter!"

She was escorted away by police.

The Pannirellos said that when Tammy Palmer had dinner at their house Sunday night, she resisted her parents' advice to call police to intervene in her domestic problems. Tammy Palmer, who attended North Rockland High School, had worked as a school monitor and was seeking work.

The Rockland County Sheriff's Department said officers in its bureau of criminal investigation unit were assisting the investigation.

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