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Judge denies Acker killer’s motion

Letcher Circuit Judge Sam Wright has denied the latest attempt by Donald Terry Bartley to avoid serving the rest of his life in prison for his role in the August 1985 murder of Tammy D. Acker and the attempted murder of her father, Dr. Roscoe J. Acker.

Wright ruled on September 7 that a previous ruling handed down in 1997 made it clear that Bartley would serve a term in prison of “999 years and 99 days” in addition to a term of life without consideration for parole for 25 years.

Bartley, of Evarts in Harlan County, pleaded guilty in February 1988 to the murder of Miss Acker, who was stabbed to death after Bartley and two other defendants, Roger Dale Epperson of Jeff in Perry County and Benny Lee Hodge of Lake City, Tenn., robbed Dr. Acker’s bedside safe of $1.9 million. The three men also choked Dr. Acker and left him for dead in his Fleming-Neon home.

Epperson and Hodge are on Death Row. Bartley avoided the same fate by agreeing to testify against the two men in the Acker case and during their trial for the murders of an elderly Jackson County couple, Edwin and Bessie Morris, for which they were also convicted and sentenced to death. Bartley also pleaded guilty to his role in the Morris murders, which happened in the community of McKee about three months before the Acker crimes.

In overruling the latest motion for “clarification of judgment and sentence,” Wright said the earlier judgment and ruling made it clear that Bartley would not be eligible for parole after he served 25 years.

The Kentucky Parole Board permanently denied parole for Bartley in November 2009.

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