Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Friend's Betrayal: The Murder of Tammy Epperson

Making the Bust

Vannoy went back to his home with the detectives. A recording device was set up on his telephone. And, sure enough, it rang at 7 p.m. Vannoy's instructions were to set up a meeting place with Powell under the guise that Vannoy would lend him some money and bring food. 

The tape recorder didn't work, so Vannoy turned on the speakerphone. Powell got suspicious and demanded that it be taken off.

"Now we're in a very odd situation. We don't know what Troy Powell is saying to him," Barr said. The detective pressed his head against Vannoy's and whispered instructions into his ear. The sting was set — Powell disclosed that he was in a motel near San Pedro, in a seedy neighborhood where rooms are rented by the day to transients.

Officers burst into Powell's hotel room. He was on the bed wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt, watching a pornographic movie. Keys to Tammy's home and office were on the nightstand. Barr learned later that he planned to burglarize her business.

Back at the station, Barr interrogated Powell. The ex-con said he had a mental disorder and didn't take his medication. He admitted being in Tammy's apartment and having consensual sex because they had been dating. Then she received a phone call from another man and that upset him.

Comparision of Samples
Comparision of Samples

"I can do whatever I want to do," Tammy told him at the time, and then walked to the bathroom. Powell claimed that he struck her a few times with his hand and didn't recall anything after that.

Barr didn't believe Powell's claim that he didn't recall murdering her. Powell had already given Vannoy such detailed information about how he killed Tammy.

Powell was booked on suspicion of murder and the case was taken to the district attorney for filing. A DNA sample was obtained, which matched the semen in Tammy's body and the bloodstains in the sink, on the towels and on her pants. The fingerprints were his. It seemed to be a slam-dunk case, but Powell had plans of his own.

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