There is a disgusting and totally expected update to the case of the Rev. David Strong, the prominent Chattanooga African Methodist Episcopal pastor who was tortured and killed on October 5. Police have arrested Antonio Henry, a 25-year-old man with a history of mental problems, as well as his 16-year-old cousin Brendan Barnes. Detectives believe Strong was tortured because he refused to reveal the PIN for his debit card during a robbery. And in a jailhouse interview over the weekend, Antonio Henry laid the groundwork for a "gay defense", admitting that he attacked the local pastor but only "snapped" after he claims Strong repeatedly pressed him to masturbate for $100.
Speaking to the Chattanooga Free Press, Henry claimed Strong invited him and Barnes to hang out on October 5. Henry said he'd met Strong twice before and "suspected" the pastor was gay but went anyway.
He said Strong, dressed in a robe and briefs, showed them into the bedroom and offered Henry the remote control, telling him to find a scary movie on television. He claimed the pastor also provided pizza and marijuana. Sitting on the pastor's bed, after all three smoked a "blunt" -- a marijuana cigar that Henry said he rolled -- the pastor wanted Henry to expose himself and masturbate, Henry claimed. "I do not get down like that," Henry said he told Strong. The pastor changed the subject before offering $100 for the same sex act three more times, Henry said. "That's when I snapped."
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. "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. 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.
The autopsy tells a different story. Strong’s killers stabbed him 18 times and slashed his head four times, according to the medical examiner’s report. Strong now claims he did not kill Strong and the pastor was still alive.
Lt. Kirk Eidson, head of the Chattanooga Police Department’s major crimes division, has said they are exploring whether Strong’s sexual preference was a "motivating factor" in the crime. Relatives of the slain pastor say Strong, who was single and had no children, was not gay.
Rev. David Strong had pastored the St. Paul AME Church for a decade and had a long history in Tennessee and Kentucky with the AME Church. The 2.5 million-member African Methodist Episcopal Church is the world's oldest and largest predominately Black denomination. The AME Church has opposed openly gay clergy, same sex unions and marriage equality.
Meanwhile: In a Monday hearing, a judge revoked Henry's $350,000 bond and ordered a November 3 preliminary hearing. Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon also advised Henry not to discuss the case with the media. As for the other suspect in the case, 16 year old Brendan Barnes, he is due in juvenile court on November 4th. At that time, a judge will decide if Barnes will be tried as an adult.
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