Guilty Verdict in Campaign Murder Trial

ByABC News
August 23, 2000, 6:32 PM

C R O S S V I L L E, Tenn., Aug. 23 -- A man prosecutors said was consumed bya thirst for political power was found guilty today in theshooting death of his election opponent, a popular state senator.

Byron Low Tax Looper, 35, was sentenced to life in prisonwithout parole by the same jury that convicted him in the death ofstate Sen. Tommy Burks, the clear favorite to win the 1998election.

The Burks family had asked prosecutors not to seek the deathpenalty.

Political Motive For MurderIn closing arguments today, prosecutor Tony Craighead saidLooper killed Burks because he wanted his power and position.

He had a motive, a method to win this election with a Smith &Wesson, Craighead said. Of all the people in all the world, whohad a reason to kill Tommy Burks? Byron Looper.

Burks, 58, was shot once in the head at his hog and tobacco farmon Oct. 19, 1998. He was sitting in pickup truck on a gravel roadnear a pumpkin patch where he planned to take schoolchildren on ahayride.

District Attorney Bill Gibson said there was no doubt Looper wasthe killer.

He didnt leave DNA at the scene. He left a bullet at thescene. He left tire tracks at the scene. He left an impression ofwho he was on a young man (farmhand Wesley Rex) at the scene, hesaid.

Looper, who legally changed his middle name from Anthony to LowTax, was the Putnam County property assessor when he was chargedwith Burks murder.

I Busted A Cap In That DudeProsecutors relied heavily on the testimony of Rex and Joe Bond,a high school friend of Loopers, to prove Loopers guilt.

Rex, who found Burks body, said he saw Looper speeding awayfrom Burks farm in a black Audi the morning Burks was killed.

Joe Bond, a Marine sergeant, said Looper showed up at his HotSprings, Ark., home the night of Burks death and confessed to thekilling.

He said, I did it, man, I did it. I killed that dude, Bondtestified. Bond said he asked who Looper had killed.