Political assassin Byron (Low Tax) Looper died June 26 shortly after a scuffle with guards at Morgan County Correctional Complex, but that wasn’t what killed him, reports Bob Fowler.
A bad heart, high blood pressure and hardening arteries were to chiefly to blame, and a toxic level of an antidepressant was a contributing factor, according to an autopsy report..
Looper, 48, was convicted of murdering state Sen. Tommy Burks on Burks’ Monterey hog farm by shooting him in the head at close range.
Looper died in an isolation cell at Morgan County Correctional Complex after he was taken to the prison’s medical unit. According to reports, Looper had slapped a prison employee in the face, knocking her glasses off, after he was told he was being removed from a private cell and being placed back in with the general prison population.
“When he slapped the nurse, they (prison guards) took him down,” Morgan County District Attorney General Russell Johnson said.
The autopsy report indicates there were several abrasions and contusions on Looper’s head, arms and legs. Some of those abrasions are consistent with handcuffs and shackles, according to the report.
Johnson said he will be giving a report on Monday to the Morgan County grand jury about the incident that includes the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s account of the incident.
According to the autopsy report, Looper, when he died, stood 5 feet, 11 inches, weighed 249 pounds, and his heart muscle had deteriorated. He also had high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. There was also a toxic concentration of the antidepressant nortriptyline in his system.
Looper killed Burks, a 28-year veteran of the state Legislature, on Oct. 19, 1998. Looper was running as a Republican and was Democrat Burks’ political opponent in that year’s election.