Separate trials for 2 charged in slaying of Chattanooga pastor

Separate trials for 2 charged in slaying of Chattanooga pastor

June 19th, 2012 by Todd South in News

Defendants Antonio Henry, left, and Brendan Barnes are led into Judge Don Poole's courtroom in December 2011 where a trial date was set in the slaying of pastor David Strong.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Two cousins charged in the beating and stabbing death of a local pastor will be tried separately.

The first is set for Nov. 13.

Hamilton County prosecutor Neal Pinkston agreed with defense attorneys for Antonio Henry, 27, and Brendan Barnes, 18, that the trials should be separate.

Henry's attorney, Dan Ripper, first requested different trials last year leading up to a scheduled trial for the pair in May. That trial date was canceled and on Monday morning Criminal Court Judge Don Poole accepted both sides' motions to separate the co-defendants and set Henry's trial first.

Barnes' trial date will be decided either at a Sept. 10 hearing ahead of Henry's trial or after his trial concludes.

Public defenders Karla Gothard and Steve Brown were at Monday's hearing to represent Barnes.

Pinkston declined to comment on the pending case.

Ripper explained after the hearing that severing the trials would prevent prosecutors from using the co-defendants' statements against each other.

"Now they can use [Henry's] full statement but they can't use any of Brendan Barnes' statement," Ripper said. "And also what it does is more narrowly tailor the proof to what Mr. Henry's actions and involvement was as opposed to the actions and involvement of his co-defendant."

In previous hearings it was revealed that Barnes and Henry both admitted to police that they struck pastor David Strong but each blamed the other for the fatal stab wounds.

Each told police they beat Strong, 55, on Oct. 5, 2010, at his 404 Glenwood Drive home. Police found the pastor's body days later.

Henry told the Times Free Press in a 2010 interview that he "snapped" when Strong asked him to masturbate while he and Barnes were at the pastor's house smoking marijuana.

An autopsy showed both alcohol and THC, marijuana's active ingredient, in Strong's blood samples.

Contact staff writer Todd South at 423-757-6347 or