Suspect takes lesser plea in Tennessee AME pastor beating death

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A murder suspect has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in the beating death of a Chattanooga pastor.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/151zYko), 28-year-old Antonio Henry avoided a first-degree murder trial that was scheduled to begin Tuesday by entering a guilty plea to second-degree murder. He received a 20-year prison term.

Henry and his cousin, 19-year-old Brendan Barnes, were charged with murder and robbery after the body of 55-year-old David Strong was found in his home in October 2010. Strong was the pastor of St. Paul AME Church.

The trials of Henry and Barnes were separated and no trial date for Barnes has been set.

Henry was 25 and Barnes was 16 when Strong was killed. An investigator said the victim had been tortured and was found with his hands and feet bound. His body had numerous stab wounds and Strong had been beaten, police said.

A juvenile court judge transferred the case against Barnes to adult court in February 2011, four months after the killing.

Investigators discovered the victim after the teen’s mother, Mary Barnes, called police and told them that her son and Henry, neither of whom had a driver’s license, had a car at her house. She wrote down the license plate number and the car belonged to Strong.

An investigator earlier told the court Strong’s bank card was used twice after his death and that a total of $600 was withdrawn from his account. There is video of ATM withdrawals, the investigator said.

Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com

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