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Acker murder case being revisited this week on TV

A highly-publicized murder that took place in Letcher County 29 years ago next month is the subject of an episode of a television show that will debut Thursday night at 10 on the Investigation Discovery network.

Entitled “Knock, Knock, You’re Dead,” the 60- minute program examines the August 1985 murder in Fleming-Neon of college coed Tammy Dee Acker and the attempted murder of her elderly physician father, Dr. Roscoe J. Acker.

The crimes, which occurred after $1.9 million was stolen from Dr. Acker’s bedside safe, were committed by Kentucky natives Donald Terry Bartley of Harlan County Roger Dale Epperson of Perry County, and Benny Lee Hodge of Lake City, Tenn. The three gained entry into the Acker home by posing as federal agents.

Epperson and Hodge have been on Kentucky’s Death Row since being convicted in Letcher Circuit Court in summer 1986. The two were later sentenced to death in the May 1985 murders of an elderly Jackson County couple, Edwin and Bessie Morris. Bartley was spared death after turning state’s evidence in both cases.

Thursday’s episode is part of the second season of Investigation Discovery’s “Southern Fried Homicide” series. Film crews were in Letcher County and Jackson County last December interviewing citizens and officials who were familiar with the case.

Among those interviewed were Whitesburg Mayor James W. Craft, who prosecuted the case when he served as Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney, Letcher County Sheriff Danny Webb, who was the Kentucky State Police Lieutenant in charge of the investigation, and former KSP Detective Frank Fleming.

After the filming of the interviews was concluded here, some of those questioned expressed skepticism about whether the “Southern Fried Homicide” producers were intent on sticking to the facts about the two murder cases. The producers appeared to be relying more on an accounting of the murders that appeared in the true crime novel “A Dark and Bloody Ground” by the late Darcy O’Brien than they were actual trial manuscriptions and investigation reports.

The Investigation Discovery channel appears on Channel 103 on TVS Cable and Channel 58 on Inter Mountain Cable. The channel is also carried by DirecTV and Dish Network.

Subsequent showings are scheduled for 1 a.m. on July 4 and 1 p.m. on July 6.

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