Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Friend's Betrayal: The Murder of Tammy Epperson

Murder One

Deputy District Attorney Vivian Moreno looked at the case and saw much more than murder. It was torture. She charged Powell with mayhem for the way he inflicted the injuries, along with murder, burglary and rape. All these additional charges were special circumstances, which allowed Moreno to seek the death penalty. She had never sought the death penalty in another case before, but felt Powell deserved it if anyone did.

Vivian Moreno
Vivian Moreno

She took the case to the grand jury instead of filing it. Under California law, a grand jury indictment means the prosecution can bypass a preliminary hearing which is exactly what happened.

But a trial did not come immediately. Powell claimed to have a mental disorder, making him unfit to stand trial. A psychologist told the judge in a hearing that Powell was antisocial and became sexually aroused when he inflicted injuries upon another person. The judge ordered him to stand trial.

When the trial finally came, Moreno was ready to refute Powell's claims that he had a blackout when Tammy was murdered and that his personality disorder made him do it.

"The body is here to tell you what happened. The blood spatter all over the apartment is here to tell you what happened to her," she told jurors. "You only have to listen. Will you listen?"

A medical examiner testified that Tammy was alive when all her injuries were inflicted. He stated that the injuries to her vaginal area during the rape were some of the worst he had seen in his career, which spanned thousands of cases.

One of the most chilling statements to come out was something Powell said to Vannoy after the murder. Moreno played the videotape of Vannoy's interrogation and this portion was particularly chilling: after Powell had finished yelling at Tammy regarding the phone call from another man, she asked him: "Troy, are you going to kill me?" And he answered, "Yes, Tammy I am."

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