Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Friend's Betrayal: The Murder of Tammy Epperson

Skid Row

Skid Row
Skid Row

LOS ANGELES — Skid Row. Just the name conjures up images of desperation: the homeless, prostitutes, and drug dealers.

Back in the 1980s, this four-block area south of Los Angeles' City Hall had about 90 murders a year. City officials made an effort to clean it up with more policing and better community resources, so over the years the murder rate dropped dramatically. In 2000, there were fewer than 20. That year, one of those victims was Tammy Epperson. Her story stands out as particularly tragic: the attractive woman, who had done some modeling at one time in her past, had pulled herself out of the chasm of drug dependence, completely turned her life around and was helping others do the same.

Tammy Epperson
Tammy Epperson

Tammy lived in Ballington Plaza, a subsidized three-story apartment complex that was a halfway house for those who had overcome their dependence on drugs and alcohol and wanted a second start. It was meant to be a fortress of sorts against the crime that flourished outside its walls. The complex was gated with 24-hour security, and visitors needed to sign a log before entry. But it wasn't secure enough for thirty-eight-year-old Tammy, who lived in a small studio on the first floor. Someone had beaten her so severely inside her tiny apartment that blood splattered on the floor, walls and ceiling.

LAPD Detective Larry Barr was at home around 9 p.m. on Nov. 13, 2000. His phone rang; on the line was his boss, Detective Emmett Badar, summoning him to the crime scene. Barr had just been promoted to the homicide unit two months before. This would be his third murder case. 

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