Chattanooga: Suspects blame each other in pastor's death

Chattanooga: Suspects blame each other in pastor's death

February 10th, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

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

Brendan Barnes and Antonio Henry, the cousins charged with first-degree murder in the killing of a Chattanooga pastor, blamed each other during police interviews taken hours after the pastor's body was found, according to court documents.

The documents are the first official look at Barnes' role in the October crime since the 16-year-old was deemed mentally competent on Feb. 3 to stand trial as an adult.

"The child admitted he struck ... [the Rev.] David Strong multiple times during an attack in which Mr. Strong was also stabbed multiple times by Antonio Henry," according to a Hamilton County Juvenile Court affidavit written by Chattanooga police Detective Michael Wenger and released this week.

But Henry, 25, "claims Mr. Barnes actually stabbed Mr. Strong," the affidavit states.

On Oct. 10, police found the 55-year-old pastor's battered and decomposing body at his Glenwood Drive home.

An autopsy report revealed that Strong's killers beat his face, tied his wrists and ankles and stabbed him 29 times. Some of the stab wounds were 5 inches deep.

"Mr. Barnes admitted he and Antonio Henry took several items of value from Mr. Strong's person and residence and left the scene in Mr. Strong's vehicle," Wenger wrote.

Last week, Wenger testified that Strong's killers used the pastor's debit card to withdraw $600.

The court documents also reveal a personal detail - that Barnes' father is "unk," police jargon for "unknown."

"His father's in the picture, but he doesn't come around like he should," the teenager's mother, Carol Barnes, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in October.

During the transfer hearing to determine whether Barnes was competent to stand trial in adult court, his attorney painted his client as an unwilling accomplice to his older cousin's mayhem.

According to Wenger's testimony in the hearing, Barnes told the detective that Henry held a knife to Barnes' throat until the teen began hitting an already-beaten Strong "some more times" with a blunt object to "prove myself."

In October, Henry told the Times Free Press in jailhouse interviews that he beat Strong with a stick and Barnes stabbed Strong after the pastor made unwanted sexual advances on Henry. Wenger later contradicted that story in court, saying Henry told police that Strong sometimes paid him to perform sex acts.

The issue of sex did not surface during Barnes' transfer hearing last week.

During an autopsy, alcohol and THC - marijuana's active ingredient - were found in the pastor's system.

Barnes will remain in Hamilton County Jail until at least Feb. 21, when Judge Rebecca Stern will set his bond.

TIMELINE

* Oct. 10 - The Rev. David Strong, pastor of Chattanooga's St. Paul AME Church, is found dead in his home after police pull over Antonio Henry, 25, and Brendan Barnes, 16, who are riding in Strong's Chrysler PT Cruiser.

* Oct. 13 - A medical examiner's report reveals Strong was stabbed 29 times. Some of the stab wounds went 5 inches deep.

* Oct. 17 - In jailhouse interviews with the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Henry says he "snapped" when Strong repeatedly pressed him to perform a sex act for $100.

* Nov. 3 - Chattanooga Police Detective Michael Wenger testifies that Henry told police that Strong sometimes paid him to perform sex acts. Wenger did not say why Henry and Barnes' visit in October turned into a prolonged attack on the pastor.

* Nov. 6 - Alcohol and THC -- marijuana's active ingredient -- are found in Strong's system during an autopsy.

* Feb. 3 - Barnes is ruled mentally competent to stand trial as an adult in Hamilton County Criminal Court. He is transferred from Hamilton County Juvenile Court to Hamilton County Jail.