A Calhoun County jury found a Bessemer man guilty Wednesday of robbing four employees of an Oxford pharmacy at gunpoint in 2015.

The jury convicted Marco Dane Acoff, 29, of pharmacy robbery and first-degree robbery.

Witnesses testified that the four women were herded into a bathroom while one of the men stole cash and personal items from a purse belonging to Brooke Rizzo, another employee, before leaving.

Prosecutor Tim Burgess said during closing arguments Acoff was identified by Rizzo  through a photo lineup and by Curry during an interview with police.

Burgess told jurors if they didn’t hold Acoff responsible for the robbery, they would be doing a disservice to the four victims.

One of Acoff’s defense attorneys, David Alexander, asked jurors to put themselves in Acoff’s shoes when making a deliberation.

If any of them were, Alexander said, they would want the jury to be fair.

Alexander also noted that Curry, who testified Wednesday against Acoff, was resentenced last month after he signed a guilty plea to the pharmacy robbery and first-degree robbery in 2016. 

“It just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Alexander said.

In the motion Curry filed on Oct. 8 asking for a new sentence, Curry told a judge he would not testify at Acoff’s trial unless he was resentenced.

Circuit Judge Debra Jones denied the motion Oct. 16, but resentenced him to two life sentences with the possibility for parole, citing a clerical error that caused Curry to unwittingly plead guilty to pharmacy robbery instead of first-degree robbery.

According to state law, those convicted of a pharmacy robbery cannot apply for parole. According to the Alabama Department of Corrections online inmate roster, Curry is eligible for parole in 2025.

Prosecutor Laura Phillips asked jurors to put themselves in the victims’ shoes.

According to Phillips, Cash had been working at the pharmacy for around two weeks when Acoff put a gun to her head. She said she begged him not to kill her when he forced her into the bathroom and left her to wonder what would happen next.

“She will never be the same,” Phillips said.

Phillips said Leigh Gardner, the supervising pharmacist, begged Acoff and Curry not to kill “her girls.”

She said Rizzo had a husband and son at home and Emily Tarver was an 18-year-old college student.

All four thought they were going to die, she said.

Curry, the last witness to testify at the trial, said he had initially asked a mutual friend, who he called “Bo,” to help him participate in a robbery to get more money. Curry said “Bo” told him Acoff was looking for an accomplice.

On Oct. 5, 2015, Curry said, Acoff called him and asked if he wanted to “hit somebody for pills.” Curry said he told Acoff to come and pick him off. 

According to Curry, Acoff gave him some crack cocaine and promised to give him cash and medication, which he planned to sell for more crack.

Curry said the two men drove to a gas station, then to the Home Depot in Fairfield to buy zip-ties before heading east on Interstate 20.

During the drive, Curry said, he got high on crack.

Curry said he initially thought Acoff planned for the two to rob an individual, but realized that wasn’t the case when Acoff parked the car at a post office and began watching a pharmacy across the street.

According to Curry, a police car was parked in front of the pharmacy, so they decided to leave after an hour.

Curry said they later parked at a thrift store behind Quick Meds to scope out that pharmacy. Curry said Acoff went into the pharmacy several times, while he went inside once before the robbery.

Curry said he and Acoff quickly planned the robbery before going inside a final time. Curry said he had doubts about going through with it, but felt he had no choice.

“He had a gun and I was a long way from home,” Curry said. “If I backed out, I didn’t know what he was going to do.”

Once inside, Curry said, he jumped over a counter and ordered the employees to the ground while Acoff pulled out a pistol and grabbed an employee.

Curry said he pretended to try to tie the employees hands behind their backs. Curry said he could have easily linked two zip-ties together, but he didn’t want to tie them up.

After Acoff forced Cash into the bathroom, Curry said, he herded the rest of the employees there as well. He said he wanted to make sure Cash was unhurt. 

Curry said he grabbed cash, a gun and a cell phone before the two drove away.

Before Acoff dropped Curry off at his home, he said, Acoff gave him $180 and a bottle of 500 pills. 

Because Curry was high for the next few days, he said, he didn’t care when he saw the news and social media posts that identified him as a suspect.

Curry said he fell asleep on a neighbor’s porch, where police apprehended him. He said he refused to cooperate at first, but later told them everything.

Curry said he asked to be resentenced because prosecutors gave him the option of pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree robbery, which is considered a lesser offense than pharmacy robbery. 

Instead, Curry said, he signed a plea agreement convicting him of pharmacy robbery and first-degree robbery because he hadn’t paid attention to the form.

“That’s not what I pleaded guilty to,” Curry said of the pharmacy robbery charge.

Curry said he had already agreed to testify against Acoff, and asked Judge Jones to resentence him since he would be in the area.

“It happened and both of us need to be punished for it,” Curry said. 

Alexander said after the trial that he was sorry that Acoff would be treated differently — more severely — from Curry during his client’s sentencing hearing, which is set for 9 a.m. Dec. 4.

Mia Kortright can be reached at akortrig@gmail.com.

 

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