Sept 13 1986 Gatlinburg, Tennessee would be changed forever
Gatlinburg, Tennessee has been long known as a family tourist attraction for many years, it offers wholesome fun for the entire family, from 8 to 80. Home to Dollywood, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Various driving tours which were a cult favorite in the 70s. Beneath the foothills of the mountains, in this sleepy little town, mystery has brewed, celebrity has been fostered and odd or unexplained murder has been the ever increasing trend.
One such murder is that of the Rocky Top Village Inn. They had done some business in Gatlinburg for some thirty-six years. Originally opened by the famous songwriting power duo Felice & Boudeleaux Bryant. who wrote some of the most popular songs in the history of Rock & Roll and Country music. They produced hits for Eddy Arnold, Carl Smith, Buddy Holly, Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison, Charley Pride, Leo Sayer, and Ruth Brown. They settled in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and opened the Rocky Top Village Inn.
Little did they know what awful events would occur years later in their beloved quaint town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. 1986 just so happens to be the year Dolly Parton opens Dollywood, bringing up to 50,000 visitors per day to the area. Gatlinburg in 2017 reported a population of 4,300 in the census, can you imagine how many people lived there in 1986? What some 1,500 people maybe? Brutal double murder of this magnitude would of paralyzed the town.
Melissa "Missy" Suttles Hill and Troy Dale Valentine are the key players and sadly victims here, a 21 year-old night clerk, and a 36 year-old security guard, working at the Rocky Top Village Inn off Airport Rd in Gatlinburg, Tn. The hotel has since been demolished and rebuilt and is the site of a newly built Courtyard Marriot.
The criminals involved here Kimberly Pelley, Eddie "Tattoo" Leroy Harris, Joseph DeModica, and Rufus Doby( Transvestite name: Ashley Silvers ). Ed Harris and Joe DeModica had met while doing time in prison previously, Ed got his name Tattoo Eddie from the 134 Tattoos he had acquired. To add to the oddity of this story, Rufus Doby the other key player was also known as Ashley Silvers and survived as a nomadic transsexual. Eddie was always hustling on the streets of Atlanta But they group ended up meeting together in Fort Lauderdale Florida in August of 1986, they then headed to Daytona, FL and then to Georgia where they picked up Eddie's girlfriend Kimberly Pelley. The foursome then drove on to Knoxville where they sought work as performers and strippers at The Pepper Tree in Knoxville.
That night DeModica borrowed money from a friend for the purpose of obtaining a motel room for the night. On Monday the week of the murders, the foursome (Harris, Pelley, DeModica and Doby(Silvers)) went to the Knoxville residence of Tracey Clark, a friend of DeModica. With Clark's permission, they slept in the car in her driveway. The group also spent Friday night in Knoxville at the apartment of Tim Farmer, another one of DeModica's friends. Harris and DeModica told Farmer that they intended to return to Gatlinburg on Saturday and would not be working that night at The Pepper Tree. On that Saturday afternoon, September 13, Harris, Pelley, DeModica, and Silvers left Farmer's apartment. Later that day in Dandridge, they tried to sell off a leather coat, a mink coat, and a radio they had stolen from Farmer to Johnnie Shultz, another of DeModica's acquaintances. She refused to purchase the merchandise, believing it to be stolen. They did sell the radio at a service station and the leather coat at a bar.
In DeModica's Testimony he stated he saw handcuffs from the rearview mirror in Eddie's vehicle, and that Eddie and Kim told them their was a gun in the Toyota. While in Knoxville DeModica said Harris wore two knives on his belt one very large one with a serrated edge. Which would place crucial after the autopsy findings.
September 13, 1986 after a long day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, at Laurel Falls the killers spent the day contemplating how they would get money by robbing nearby businesses in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Instead Tattoo Eddie drove them to the Rocky Top Village Inn where they would get a room for the night. From the way it has been told from testimonials, Kimberly went in and talked to the Front desk clerk, Kimberly and Melissa( front desk clerk ) emerged from the building where the Clerk showed Kimberly a room and Ed had joined them. Scuffled sounds and noises could be heard from the room and then a low scream. Mellissa was stabbed multiple times and shot in the head. A golf cart rolls up on scene where Troy Dale Valentine has been alerted by the Hotel Clerk's husband who was worried about his wife. He had been in contact with her all night long via the phone. Their last conversation was that she was heading to the rear of the building to finish the night audit and she would return by a certain time and call. She did not do so and her husband phoned security. When Troy Dale Valentine had arrived Melissa had just been shot and killed, Kimberly Pelley clubbed the guard with his own flash light, he was then forced into the room and stabbed repeatedly and shot between the eyes.
Melissa Hill's husband was a dispatcher with Sevierville Police Department, Melissa had the 3pm-11pm shift that night, he had last talked to her at 10:30pm, when he called back a few minutes later there was no answer. Melissa's purse was missing and approx. $499 stolen from it and the hotel cash deposit. Three days later a letter was left in a Maggie Valley, Nc phone booth right outside a nearby Police station. The letter which included a small pocket knife that had belonged to Melissa Hill. The letter written by Tattoo Eddie contained information only the killers would of known. On Dec, 16 1987 Harris was arrested in Atlanta, Ga. 1988 Harris was sentenced to Die but in 2002 determined to be mentally unstable and could not be executed. He was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.
Good ol' Ed got his karma punishment in early March 2015 where he was killed in a prison fight at the Wartburg Correctional Facility. Joe DeModica received a life sentence as well as Kimberly Pelley. Rufus Doby plead guilty and has since been released. Research shows Kimberly Pelley has also been released and has been reported to be living in the Nashville, Tennessee area.