Accused murderer pleads not guilty to pastor killing

Accused murderer pleads not guilty to pastor killing

March 25th, 2011 by Chris Carroll in Local - Breaking News

Sixteen-year-old Brendan Barnes, left, and his cousin Antonio Henry, 25, are charged in the death of Rev. David Strong.

A man charged in the death of a Chattanooga pastor pleaded not guilty this morning while his teenage cousin entered no plea on identical charges.

Antonio Henry, 25, appeared via video screen while his attorney, Daniel Ripper, entered a not-guilty plea on charges of first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery.

Henry's cousin, 16-year-old Brendan Barnes, did not enter a plea because of an unexpected change in counsel. The Hamilton County Public Defender's Office has requested time to meet with Barnes and review the charges against him.

Police have said Henry and Barnes attacked the Rev. David Strong, hitting his head with a stick and stabbing him 29 times. Each blames the other for the brunt of the killing.

In two jailhouse interviews with the Chattanooga Times Free Press last October, Henry blamed Barnes for stabbing Strong, but took responsibility for beating the pastor with a stick. He said the two were driven to violence when the pastor made unwanted sexual advances.

Strong was pastor at St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church in Chattanooga.

In November, a Chattanooga police detective testified Henry told police Strong sometimes paid him to perform sex acts.

The issue of sex hasn't been broached during Barnes' court appearances, which have all been separate from Henry's, including today's arraignment hearing. Barnes has said the pair went to "rob and possibly kill" the pastor, according to police testimony.

Strong's autopsy results indicated presence of alcohol and THC - marijuana's active ingredient.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.