Letcher County Community Press - McRoberts - A Special Kind of Place - Community Shocked, Saddened When Dr. Acker's Daughter is Murdered - Article By Mickey Joe Combs Smith
Everyone who has lived or had relatives in the McRoberts/Jenkins area remembers Dr. Roscoe Acker who practiced Family Medicine several years at Fleming, Kentucy. He was the family doctor for my parents and many residents of McRoberts and the surrounding areas for many years. This is a two part article and part two will continue next week. (More About The Killers).
Dr. Roscoe Jacob Acker came to Letcher County as a young physician and instantly became a part of the community. He was born in Boston in 1908 and received his medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons there in 1943. After the war, he started practicing in the coal fields when the United Mine Workers offered young physicians as much as thirty thousand dollars a year to practice in Appalachia.
After moving to Fleming-Neon, he built a new home for his family and bought a small miner's home behind what used to be the Fleming Hospital to use for his office. His home was about a mile from where my parents lived. He and his wife Dee had two beautiful daughters they both adored, Tawny Rose and Tammy Dee.
In 1985, there was a tragedy in the Acker home that changed the lives of the Acker family. The way I understand it, Dr. Acker's twenty three year old daughter Tammy had enrolled as a psychology student for the fall semester at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. She came home that day, (August 8, 1985), to visit her Dad, pick up some of her clothes, and intended to return to college in Lexington. Her mother, Dee (Dorthea) Acker had passed away from cancer one year earlier on August 11, 1984. Tammy was very devoted to her father and after her mother's death she tried to spend time with him and help him get through his grief.
That evening intruders entered their home while they were at their home, Dr. Acker was robbed; left for dead and his daughter Tammy was brutally murdered. This tragedy that would never be forgotten by people living in the area.
On that night between nine and ten o'clock p.m., two men dressed in dark suits rang the doorbell of Dr. Acker's home. Tammy asked what they wanted over the intercom. They told her they were FBI agents and needed to talk to Dr. Acker about an investigation they were working on. He opened the door, they flashed "badges" at him and apologized for disturbing him at such a late hour. The two men told him they were investigating a former business associate of his and asked to come inside.
After gaining entrance to the home, they walked back to the kitchen and one of the men immediately pulled a gun. They told Dr. Acker if he did what they told him no one would get hurt. One of the men ordered Dr. Acker to get on the floor. He removed Dr. Acker's glasses, tied his hands and feet, gagged him, an put a sheet over his head.
They took Tammy to a back bedroom where they tied and gagged her and put a sheet over her head. Dr. Acker told detectives that he could hear them ransacking the house for about thirty minutes. They then came to him and asked him the combination to his safe. He told them the combination and they wrote the numbers down. After a few minutes they came back and said they couldn't get the safe open. They untied him, took him into the bedroom and made him open the safe. It was at this point he said he saw a third man dressed in a sports shirt.
Dr. Roscoe Jacob Acker's Office Building in Fleming, Letcher County Kentucky, Location Used in the 1980 Movie "Coal Miner's Daughter" About the Life of Loretta Lynn, In Butcher Holler, Kentucky, Starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones
Dr. Acker's Home in Fleming, Letcher County, Kentucky - Location of the Murder by Stabbing of Tammy Acker, and the Robbery, Beating, and Attempted Murder by Strangulation of Dr. Roscoe Jacob Acker on August 8, 1985
As soon as he opened the safe, they couldn't believe their eyes. The safe was full of money. They took him back into the kitchen, tied him up again and put the sheet back over is head. They then put the cord of a curling iron round his neck and tightened it until he passed out.
While he was passed out the men took the large sum of money from inside the safe and fled. When they left the home they thought Dr. Acker and Tammy were both dead.
Dr. Acker said he didn't know how long he was passed out but he managed to get loose a few minutes after he came to. He immediately started hollering for Tammy and tried to find her. He went in the direction he saw the men take her and found her lying on the floor in a back room. She was still tied and had a sheet over her head. He bent over to take the sheet off of her head and saw that she was dead. Tammy had been stabbed eleven times and was still pinned to the floor with a large butcher knife.
In his statement during the trial, Dr. Acker stated that when he found Tammy "I knelt down to take her in my arms and she was still warm, then I saw the knife sticking in her back. I knew she was in God's hands then, and I went back to the kitchen and called the police."
The dispatcher at the Fleming-Neon police station received the telephone call at eleven thirty that night. Dr. Acker told them he had been robbed and about Tammy. The police arrived at his home within five minutes. Numerous local and state officials arrived within the hour, Kentucky State Police Lieutenant Danny Webb was there by midnight along with KSP detectives Lon Maggard and Frank Fleming. Lt. Webb made the unusual decision to telephone the KSP Crime Laboratory in Frankfort, some two hundred miles away and ask that a team of experts be sent immediately to Fleming-Neon.
As Lt. Webb continued to talk to Dr. Acker and try to comfort him, he learned that Tammy had been home that night only by chance. She stopped by to see her father and pick up a few of her possessions before returning to classes at the University of Kentucky, whhere she was a junior and a member of a sorority. She was such a wonderful girl the doctor said, and had been so devoted to him. When her mother died, she had left the university in the middle of the semester and had taken the rest of the year off to take care of him and nurse him through his trief. If only she had come to see him a day earlier or a day later her father would have been home alone.
While the detectives were investigating the scene and gathering evidence the three men who planned and followed through on a lavish spending spree traveling south. They were headed south to reunite with Sherry Hodge and Carol Epperson in Ormond Beach, Florida. After reuniting with Carol and Sherry, they were all celebrating like a victorious team, hugging, kissing, feeling and touching the money.
Sherry took charge of counting the money and being the bookkeeper for the group. Later that night she told them she had an announcement to make, they had reached "one million dollars." Sherry continued to count and about midnight announced they had reached one million six hundred thousand dollars. At this poing they stopped counting.
Their spending trails led to to their arrest in a rented condominium in Ormond Beach, Florida. Benny Hodge, Roger Dale Epperson, Donald Terry Bartley and their companions, Sherry Hodge and Carol Epperson were captured and charged with capital murder in the death of Tammy Acker. They were also charged with attempted murder, first degree robbery and first degree assault.
My article next week will pick up where the criminals are broght back to Kentucky to stand trial. I will cover the trail and outcome up until today's date. (I couldn't find the article she wrote about. I will continue to look for it and if I find it will add it here. More About the Killers).