An Edgar Award–winning author’s true crime account of a grisly string of killings in Kentucky—and the shocking spectacle of greed that followed.
Kentucky never deserved its Indian appellation “A Dark and Bloody Ground” more than when a small-town physician, seventy-seven-year-old Roscoe Acker, called in an emergency on a sweltering evening in August 1985. Acker’s own life hung in the balance, but it was already too late for his college-age daughter, Tammy, savagely stabbed eleven times and pinned by a kitchen knife to her bedroom floor. Three men had breached Dr. Acker’s alarm and security systems and made off with the fortune he had stashed away over his lifetime.
The killers—part of a three-man, two-woman gang of the sort not seen since the Barkers—stopped counting the moldy bills when they reached $1.9 million. The cash came in handy soon after when they were caught and needed to lure Kentucky’s most flamboyant lawyer, the celebrated and corrupt Lester Burns, into representing them. Full of colorful characters and desperate deeds, A Dark and Bloody Ground is a “first-rate” true crime chronicle from the author of Murder in Little Egypt (Kirkus Reviews).
“An arresting look into the troubled psyches of these criminals and into the depressed Kentucky economy that became fertile territory for narcotics dealers, theft rings and bootleggers.” —Publishers Weekly
“The smell of wet, coal-laden earth, white lightning, and cocaine-driven sweat arises from these marvelously atmospheric—and compelling—pages.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A fascinating portrait of the mountain way of life and thought that forged the lives of these criminals.” —Library Journal
In his account of a 10-year crime spree in Eastern Kentucky, University of Tulsa English professor O'Brien ( Murder in Little Egypt ) focuses on chronic criminal Benny Hodge and his wife Sherry, who met when she was a guard in Brushy Mountain State Prison in rural Morgan County where he was incarcerated. Sherry seduced him and, after he was paroled, the two began living together, supporting themselves by ripping off small-time drug dealers. After forming a gang, their crimes escalated until they entered the home of Dr. Roscoe Acker in 1985, murdering his daughter, almost killing Dr. Acker, and seizing a cache of $1.9 million before fleeing to Florida. Tangential to their story is that of flamboyant Kentucky lawyer Lester Burns, who took on the defense for $400,000, despite the source of the money. One gang member, Donald Bartley, turned state's evidence; Benny and Roger Epperson were sentenced to death; Sherry and Carol Epperson received prison sentences, as did lawyer Burns, for knowingly accepting stolen money. This is an arresting look into the troubled psyches of these criminals and into the depressed Kentucky economy that became fertile territory for narcotics dealers, theft rings and bootleggers.
I have developed a thing for true crime books. I guess I've read about a dozen or so now. This is the worst one I have read. I think the Lester Burns story should be left out of it, or, write about him another time. (Which I would not read). I could not care less about him and his greed. I finished it but it ended abruptly, not telling you if these guys had been put to death or were still appealing or what. I wish I had not wasted my time.