By Edward Marshall
BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. – On the snowy, cold afternoon of Jan. 12, 1977, all eyes of the Eastern Panhandle turned to the tiny town of Paw Paw as word spread of the tragic slaying of two West Virginia state troopers.
In a matter of minutes, Trooper Charles Henry Johnson and Trooper First Class Thomas Dean Hercules were gunned down by Larry Parker, a thief wanted in Maryland on breaking and entering warrants, at the fugitive’s Amelia Street home in Paw Paw. The line-of-duty deaths of Johnson and Hercules sparked one of the area’s largest manhunts in recent history that lasted for days until Parker’s body was found in a cave behind a frozen waterfall. Parker, an experienced woodsman armed with a high-powered rifle, took his own life after secreting himself away in the frigid hiding spot.
Now, nearly 37 years after the tragic deaths of Johnson and Hercules, efforts are being made by area law enforcement officials to dedicate and rename a portion of U.S. 522 near the West Virginia State Police barracks in Berkeley Springs in honor of the two troopers.
The effort is being spearheaded by K.C. Bohrer, a retired captain with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department who is currently an investigator with the Frederick County (Va.) Sheriff’s Office.
“I don’t want it to be forgotten, and I think this is a way to ensure that their sacrifice won’t be forgotten. It’s a small thing that we can do to give something back. It’s not only important for their memory, it’s not only important to their family, it’s important to those of us who still work,” Bohrer said. “In the back of your mind as a police officer, you want to know that somewhere down the line people won’t forget what you did.”