Drug found in slain pastor's body

Drug found in slain pastor's body

November 6th, 2010 by Chris Carroll in News

Toxicology reports indicate that the Rev. David Strong's body tested positive for the main ingredient in marijuana, a finding consistent with the account of one man charged with killing the pastor.

Medical professionals found a chemical known as THC in a blood test performed three days after police found Strong's battered body sprawled inside his Glenwood Drive home Oct. 10. Strong was pastor at Chattanooga's St. Paul AME Church.

American Institute of Toxicology Laboratories conducted the test in Indianapolis. Toxicologists there could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon. But Vanderbilt University School of Medicine pathologist Sheila Dawling said the presence of THC in a blood sample indicates that the person likely had used marijuana fairly recently.

"It's not going to be somebody who smoked [marijuana] three weeks ago," Dawling said. "I think 24 hours would be pushing it."

In two jailhouse interviews, 25-year-old Antonio Henry told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he and his teenage cousin Brendan Barnes smoked a "blunt" -- a marijuana cigar -- at Strong's house Oct. 4. He said the pastor then made unwanted sexual advances toward Henry, causing the pair to "snap."

Police have charged Henry and Barnes with first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery.

But during a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Chattanooga Police Detective Michael Wenger said Henry told police he went to Strong's house to "make money" masturbating in front of the pastor. Wenger never said why a supposedly consensual visit with Strong turned into an hourlong attack on the pastor. There were no signs of forced entry to Strong's house.

Following the attack, Henry told police he stole the pastor's car, some money, a gold ring and a "dime bag of marijuana."

According to an autopsy report, Strong was stabbed 29 times and beaten with blunt force. Most of the stab wounds were between 3 and 5 inches deep, but one wound in Strong's neck went 6 inches deep.

The report states Oct. 10 as the "date of death," but a representative from the Hamilton County medical examiner's office said the date only represents when police notified the office.

The representative said "it's unknown" whether the pastor died quickly or lay wounded for some time. The report indicates there were signs of decomposition in the body.

Authorities have said the assault happened at least five days before police found Strong.

Still, in the jailhouse interviews, Henry said, "I really don't see how he died," maintaining that Strong was praying as the men left the residence.

"Maybe he lost too much blood or something, but he was breathing when I left," Henry said. "The man was not dead."