The Chattanooga man accused of torturing and killing a local pastor has pleaded guilty to 11 crimes in seven years and had a history of schizophrenia, depression and emotional and personality disorders, court and medical records show.
Police say Antonio Henry, 25, and his 16-year-old cousin, Brendan Barnes, beat, stabbed and strangled the Rev. David Strong, pastor at St. Paul AME Church, before hitting him over the head with a vase and cutting his throat.
Henry and Barnes each are charged with one count of felony murder and one count of especially aggravated robbery.
Barnes’ criminal history was not available since authorities are treating him as a juvenile, but Henry has an extensive record.
In 2003, Henry received probation after he was found guilty of domestic assault for pulling the braids out of his girlfriend’s scalp during an argument, records show.
Henry escaped in 2004 from the Silverdale Detention Center, records show.
In 2005, he pleaded guilty to assault for swinging a crowbar at a man’s head, police records show. He received probation for that crime and was forced to take a 12-week anger-management class.
Hamilton County court records also show that Henry belonged to the Vice Lords gang, but his mother isn’t convinced.
“He’s got a ‘VL’ tattoo on his back, but I actually don’t know,” Anita Burgis said Tuesday. “You can tattoo what you want to tattoo on your body, but that don’t mean anything.”
She said her son never met his Atlanta-based father, heard voices as a young child and twice attempted suicide, once trying to set himself on fire.
According to Social Security Administration documents, Henry began collecting Supplemental Security Income in 1998, when he was 13. Records show that those payments stopped in 2005, despite the agency’s recognition of Henry’s depression, mood disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, emotional disorder and personality disorder.
“Even though you have not performed substantial gainful work in the past, your condition does not prevent you from doing some types of substantial gainful work,” states Henry’s 2005 rejection claim from Social Security.
Burgis said her son never got a job because “big crowds could make him snap.”
On Tuesday, Chattanooga Assistant Police Chief Tim Carroll said “one of the most brutal” crimes of the year happened after Strong refused to reveal the PIN for his debit card during a routine robbery, but Lt. Kirk Eidson said authorities are investigating “other possible motivating factors.”
“The possibility existed that Rev. Strong was gay,” said Eidson, head of the Chattanooga Police Department’s major crimes division. “We’re exploring that. We are currently investigating as to any type of motivating factor of that nature. ... Even if that would be the case, they planned a robbery, and they still killed him.”
Schedule of final arrangements:
Today: noon, prayer vigil, Warren Chapel AME Church – Chattanooga, Rev. Mays officiating.
Thursday: 6 p.m., musical tribute, St. Paul AME Church - Chattanooga.
Friday: 6 p.m., memorial service, St. Paul AME Church - Chattanooga, Words of Comfort, Bishop McKenzie.
Sunday: 6 p.m., memorial service, Ward Chapel AME Church - Memphis.
Monday: 11 a.m., Ward Chapel AME Church - Dr. C.W. Fugh, eulogist.
As Henry sat in jail on a $350,000 bond, his mother said she “would understand” her son, whom she calls Tony, robbing the preacher. But she said she couldn’t see him murdering the pastor “without a reason.”
Strong was single and lived alone, according to Terence Mayes, a longtime friend of the pastor.
Carroll said Henry had known Strong for four years, but Barnes told police that he had not met Strong before the night he was killed.
Carol Barnes said her 16-year-old son barely saw his father and got expelled from Howard School of Academics and Technology after he pushed a teacher into the wall as he “tried to watch gangs fighting in the hall.”
She said her son suffered from attention deficit hyperactive disorder but was reluctant to take his medicine.
Carol Barnes said her son told her that two other men participated in Strong’s killing, but police say they questioned several people and that Henry and Barnes are the only two suspects.
“My son ain’t no Boy Scout,” Carol Barnes said. “But he got coerced into this [crime] and he was threatened with the same knife that was cutting the pastor.”
Henry’s General Sessions preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 18. Officials would not release information on Barnes, but his mother said he is in the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center and that a hearing will determine if he will be tried as an adult.
“I want to apologize to that man’s family; that’s the main thing,” Carol Barnes said. “But in a sense, we’ve lost our kids, too.”