The beating, stabbing, strangulation, throat-slitting murder of Chattanooga pastor David Strong might have had a gay element, the city’s police department already hinted. Now we hear from 25-year-old murder suspect Antonio Henry — accused, along with 16-year-old cousin Brendan Barnes of the grisly crime — that Strong came on to him, and that’s why he gutted the pastor.
Speaking from prison to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Henry says Strong — whom Henry knew for years — propositioned him for some man-on-man sex to the tune of $100. (The paper describes it as a “sex act,” which I’m going to assume means a blowjob.) According to police, Henry, who has a history of mental disease and crime, was in Strong’s home to rob him, and beat and cut him to death when Strong refused to hand over his ATM code. But Henry insists Strong was alive, albeit beaten and bound on the floor, when he left the house. But oh, let’s see some remorse!
“We did not demand no money,” he said. “This stuff happened because this man would not listen up and let us up out that house.” Henry said Strong refused to let him and Barnes leave his house at 404 Glenwood Drive until they gave in to his sexual demands. “I’m sorry he’s, you know, gone and stuff like that, but he’s a disgrace to his church,” Henry said.
Not that Strong’s family wants sexuality speculation in the pastor’s official record.
However, the pastor’s youngest sister, Terri Strong, rejected that speculation. “He is not gay,” she said, adding that her brother’s Facebook page lists him as single and interested in women. Asked at a memorial for the pastor last week, his nephew, Andre Strong, said he had never heard any rumors that his uncle was gay.
Oh, what’s that you hear? The groundwork being laid for a lovely “gay panic” defense?
Henry said he picked up a walking stick resting near the side of the bed and struck Strong’s head and leg as his cousin ran to the kitchen to get a knife. A report from the Hamilton County Medical Examiner’s Office showed 18 stab wounds on the right side of Strong’s torso, dozens of lacerations and evidence of blunt force trauma.
“I ain’t gonna lie that I hit him with the stick, man, because me and my cousin’s life was in danger,” Henry said. Henry said the house had deadbolt locks that could be opened from the inside only with a key. Strong wasn’t offering a key “until he got what he wanted,” Henry said, so “in case that man reached for a gun or anything,” he tied the pastor’s wrists with part of a shirt they found in the house. Police also found the pastor’s ankles bound, but Henry said he doesn’t know what Barnes used to tie the pastor’s ankles.
During the struggle, Henry said Strong offered his debit card PIN and “anything we wanted, but it wasn’t about money.” “We did not demand nothing,” Henry said. But he admitted they stole the pastor’s car, saying it was too far for them to walk from the pastor’s Glenwood house to Brainerd, where they were staying. Using the pastor’s debit card, the cousins withdrew about $200 from an automated teller machine.
So it wasn’t about the money, but Henry and Barnes stole it anyway. And it wasn’t either of them who were looking for trouble, though they left the pastor on his death bed after stabbing him eighteen times. And that was after beating him in the head with a vase. And it was the pastor who had apparently kidnapped them, by refusing to let them exit, until they blew him or whatever. Great.
That jailhouse interview, meanwhile, doesn’t have Henry’s court-appointed attorney too thrilled — and even has the judge overseeing the case, who today withdrew Henry’s $350,000 bond, advising the defendant to STFU to the press. And while it’s certainly not a statement given under oath, what Henry did there was openly admit to the violent acts that claimed Strong’s life. So that’s pretty damning.
[photo: Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press]