Election opponent found guilty in murder of state senator

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. - A man prosecutors said was consumed by a thirst for political power was found guilty Wednesday in the shooting death of his election opponent, a popular state senator.

Byron (Low Tax) Looper, 35, was sentenced to life in prison without parole by the same jury that convicted him in the death of state Sen. Tommy Burks, the clear favorite to win the 1998 election.

The Burks family had asked prosecutors not to seek the death penalty.

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor Tony Craighead said Looper 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, who had a reason to kill Tommy Burks? Byron Looper.''

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

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

''He didn't leave DNA at the scene. He left a bullet at the scene. He left tire tracks at the scene. He left an impression of who he was on a young man (farmhand Wesley Rex) at the scene,'' he said.

Defense attorneys relied on the testimony of Looper's mother and her neighbors to try to prove Looper's innocence. They said he was at his mother's home the morning Burks was killed.

Looper, who legally changed his middle name from Anthony to (Low Tax), was the Putnam County property assessor when he was charged with Burks' murder.


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