In this Monday, Nov., 23, 1998, file photo, Byron Looper talks to his attorney Lionel Barrett in court during Looper's murder trial in Crossvile, Tenn. State correctional officials say Looper, a Tennessee inmate serving a life sentence for the murder of state Sen. Tommy Burks, was found dead in his cell in the Morgan County Correctional Complex, Wednnesday, June 26, 2013.Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
A preliminary autopsy shows Byron “Low Tax” Looper died after a heart event.
The notorious figure in Tennessee politics was found dead in his East Tennessee prison cell Wednesday while he was serving a life sentence for the death of his political opponent, state Sen. Tommy Burks.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said the autopsy report indicted Looper had a heart event, but she wouldn’t say whether agents have ruled out foul play.
“TBI will await the final autopsy before concluding the death investigation and turning it over to the district attorney general,” she said.
Tennessee Health Department officials wouldn’t clarify what type of heart even Looper had before he was found dead.
Nearly two hours before Looper was found, a prison incident report shows he assaulted a pregnant female counselor and had to be restrained.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...