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'Personification of evil' dies on Oregon death row

The man who kidnapped and killed a lesbian couple in Medford in 1995 in one of Jackson County’s most infamous murder cases died today in his prison cell in Salem.

Robert James Acremant, 50, who a juror in his 1997 trial called “the personification of evil,” was found dead during a routine bed check this morning on Death Row at the Oregon State Penitentiary, state prison officials said.

The Oregon State Police has been notified and the medical examiner will determine Acremant’s cause of death, but there was “nothing suspicious that we know of,” said Tonya Gushard, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Corrections.

Acremant was convicted of aggravated murder in 1997 and sentenced to life in prison for the execution-style slaying, kidnapping and robbery of Roxanne Ellis, 53, and Michelle Abdill, 42, on Dec. 4, 1995.

He lured the couple to a northeast Medford duplex apartment, where he tied and gagged them with duct tape. He shot them each twice in the head after forcing them to lie in the back of a pickup truck, which was discovered with the bodies in a nearby parking lot three days later.

Prosecutors at the time said Acremant killed the women in a desperate attempt to rob them of money he wanted to spend on a stripper whom he called his girlfriend.

“He was definitely one of the most evil people we’ve ever dealt with,” said Tim Doney, the lead Medford police investigator in the case and the current police chief in Talent.

Doney said Acremant spoke “almost jovially” about how he killed the women and that he plotted from his Jackson County Jail cell to kill his father after learning his parents helped lead police to his capture in California.

Earlier, Acremant’s mother put police on her son’s trail after she saw a suspect sketch by Medford police artist Chuck Steinberg in newspapers and on television.

“You could see in his eyes that he had checked out,” Doney said today after hearing of Acremant’s death. “You never wanted to turn your back to him.”

Acremants pled guilty and the trial turned into the penalty phase, where a 12-person jury made him the first death-row inmate from a Jackson County murder.

“Not only was he the first but also the only one from Jackson County,” said former District Attorney Mark Huddleston, who prosecuted the case. “He was definitely a psycho.”

Two months before the Abill-Ellis slayings, Acremant murdered Scott George, the son of his mother’s boyfriend in Visalia, Calif., and later told police he did so just to see what it felt like to kill. George was killed in California, and Acremant moved to Medford shortly after that.

Acremant returned to the Stockton area following the Medford murders.

Medford police traveled to the Stockton area in 1996 after Arcremant’s mother’s information and interviewed Acremant, who confessed.

“That was great police work, tracking him down and getting a confession,” Huddleston said. “That’s when they developed (the George case).”

During the George trial, Acremant threatened his defense team. He later defended himself in that trial.

“He had a real disconnect and he had no remorse for all the carnage that he inflicted,” Doney said.

He was convicted for that case in 2002 and sentenced to death, but remained in custody in Oregon after his sentence was commuted to life in prison in 2011 after Acremant was diagnosed as delusional and unable to aid in his own appeals.

In the years after his conviction, Acremant made conflicting statements about why he killed Abdill and Ellis. Acremant made some claims that the murders of Abdill and Ellis were motivated by his hatred of lesbians, which drew worldwide attention, but he later admitted the killings were part of a botched robbery.

The murders alarmed the gay community because Ellis and Abdill had worked on the campaign that defeated a statewide measure to limit the rights of homosexuals.

“My hope is his death may provide some closure for the Abdill-Ellis family and their friends,” Doney said. “But it won’t resolve all their pains and hurts.”

The case has lived in infamy.

The case was featured in 2012 on the Investigation Discovery channel’s “Very Bad Men,” which included an interview with Doney.

The stripper, Alla Kosova, who in court described Acremant as “one of my best customers” who spent thousands to woo her, was a contestant on NBC’s “The Apprentice” as Alla Wartenberg, real estate investor. It was the second season that current President Donald Trump headlined the show.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at@MTwriterFreeman.

This sketch by Medford police artist Chuck Steinberg helped police nab murderer Robert Acremant. The sketch prompted Acremant's mother to phone police once she saw it printed in newspapers and broadcast on television. Sketch and photo courtesy of Chuck Steinberg