Everybody Hurts

Medford's veteran police officers might approach their jobs with varying styles and philosophies, but when asked who bears the dishonor of being Medford's most notorious criminal, they all firmly agree:

Robert James Acremant.

"I've said it before, but Robert Acremant is a stain on the history of this city," Medford police Deputy Chief Tim George said.

The investigators who trailed and eventually caught Acremant usually shake their heads when describing the senselessness of his crimes.

In December 1995, Acremant ambushed the couple Roxanne Ellis, 53, and Michelle Abdill, 42, at a home in northeast Medford. He bound and gagged the women with duct tape and shot each twice in the head after ordering them into the back of a pickup.

The ordeal later proved to be a robbery gone bad. In all, Acremant managed to collect only a few dollars off the women.

The case made headlines across the nation, with speculation rampant in the media that the murders were a hate crime based on the fact the women were a lesbian couple.

"A lot was made about that, but from the beginning it was a robbery that went south," George said.

The couple weren't the only victims of Acremant's 1995 rampage. He was sentenced to death in California for murdering Scott George of Visalia. Robbery was believed to be the motive for this killing as well.

Triple murderers pop up with depressing regularity across the country, though few seem to capture the attention lavished on Acremant following his crimes.

The case read like a low-budget TV movie. It turns out, Acremant was trying to get enough cash to impress a Las Vegas stripper named Alla Kosova. Acremant made numerous trips to Las Vegas to throw money at Kosova, whom he considered his girlfriend.

This and the media attention on the possible hate crime connection spurred news organizations from across the world into action. George said the department received calls from CNN and every major network. Stories appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and major newspapers and magazines in between.

It was a combustible mix, George said.

"It was a stressful environment from law enforcement's standpoint," George said. "There was a lot of false information out there and we were getting hundreds of phone calls about it."

Eventually, Acremant pleaded guilty to the Abdill-Ellis murders in Medford and was sentenced to death by a Jackson County jury. But in February, his sentence was commuted to life in prison because he was diagnosed as delusional and unable to aid in his own appeals.

He remains on California's death row for the Scott George murder.

The case continues to haunt Medford in the media.

Medford police Lt. Tim Doney, who was a detective at the time of the Abdill-Ellis murders, has appeared on Court TV to discuss the hunting down and capturing of Acremant.

In 2005, Kosova appeared on Donald Trump's reality show "The Apprentice." She was "fired" by Trump early in the season, but not before setting off a gossip firestorm after her past came to light.

George and Doney have presented the case in its entirety to homicide conferences. During their lecture, they play tapes of Acremant bragging about the murders.

"I have spoken to Acremant many times and he has never shown remorse for what he did," Doney said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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