Byron Looper
American convicted murderer and political assassin
Byron Looper
"Lowtax" redirects here. For the founder of the comedy website Something Awful, see Something Awful. En:Byron LooperBorn Byron Anthony Looper Template:Safesubst:September 15, 1964 (age 47) Template:Safesubst:Cookeville, TennesseeDied Template:Safesubst: Template:Safesubst:Charge(s) Murder of his political opponent, Tommy BurksConviction(s) GuiltyStatus Serving life sentence without parole This biographical article needs additional citations for verification.
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  • 2013
    Age 48
    Looper was found dead in his prison cell on June 26, 2013.
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  • 2001
    Age 36
    In December 2001, Looper was the subject of episode 163 of American Justice entitled "Eliminating the Competition".
    More Details Hide Details He also filed a lawsuit against Tennessee Department of Correction personnel and the contractor that provided medical services in Tennessee prisons, charging that the conditions of his confinement were unconstitutional and that he was not receiving adequate medical care. In that suit he asked for $47 million in damages. He also filed several unsuccessful motions to overturn his conviction.
    In 2001 or 2002, Looper sued a TV station and individual station personnel for depicting him unfavorably in a broadcast interview.
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  • 2000
    Age 35
    In 2000, 2002, and 2006, deputy county assessor John Lower Taxes Loew ran for office of Los Angeles County Assessor. In 2000, Loew received less than 1% of the vote in the special election to fill a vacancy in the office.
    More Details Hide Details In 2002 and 2006, Loew lost the elections to incumbent Rick Auerbach by a 70%–11% margin in 2002, and by a 77%–23% margin in 2006. Loew ran again in 2010, but without the middle name "Lower Taxes". He finished in third place with 10.6% of the vote
    In August 2000, Looper was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole.
    More Details Hide Details The victim's family had requested that prosecutors not seek the death penalty. Following his conviction and sentencing, he was transferred to Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee. Brushy Mountain Penitentiary closed in 2009; Looper moved to the Morgan County Correctional Complex.
    Looper's jury trial for murder finally occurred in 2000 after several delays as Looper changed attorneys and his attorneys filed motions requesting changes in the judge and trial location.
    More Details Hide Details The trial was not moved, but jurors were brought in from Sullivan County to reduce the chance that the jury would have been influenced by pre-trial publicity. By the time of the trial, a work crew had found the weapon apparently used in the murder at the junction of TN 111 and I-40. Wes Rex and Joe Bond were both prominent witnesses for the prosecution, as were two political consultants who reported having been contacted at various times by Looper, who had told both of them that he wanted to run a political race and felt the surest way to win would be to murder the opponent. The prosecuting attorney told the jury that Looper had intended to "win this election with a Smith & Wesson." For his defense, Looper tried to rely on testimony from his mother and her neighbors, who said he was visiting his mother's home in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on the morning that Burks died, but witnesses he produced to support his alibi were excluded from testifying because they had not been identified to the court before the trial, as required. Despite overwhelming forensic and eyewitness evidence presented at trial, Looper's mother maintained her son's innocence to his death and beyond.
  • 1999
    Age 34
    The ouster suit led, on January 26, 1999, to Looper's being officially removed from the public office of property assessor.
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  • 1998
    Age 33
    After Looper's removal from office and conviction for murder, prosecutors decided not to pursue the criminal indictments filed in March 1998.
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    On October 30, 1998, after Looper had been arrested and jailed for the murder of Tommy Burks, the Putnam County attorney and ten citizens filed petitions to oust him from the office of tax assessor.
    More Details Hide Details In the ouster petitions it was alleged that: (1) Looper had arbitrarily increased the tax assessment on the property of a person who would not contribute to Looper's political campaign fund; (2) Looper had failed to enter assessments on certain parcels of property; (3) Looper had removed a parcel from the tax roll with the intent of preventing the property owner from serving as a county public official or running for public office; (4) Looper had failed to deliver property tax rolls to the county trustee as required by law; (5) Looper erroneously classified certain property as falling under the state's Agricultural, Forest, and Open Space Land Act in order to obtain a benefit under that law; and (6) Looper used county employee time, county money, and other county resources for his own personal and political purposes.
    Looper later turned up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he met with a friend, Marine recruiter Joe Bond. Bond and Looper had been friends as children, and Looper had rekindled the friendship in the summer of 1998, largely on the basis of wanting Bond's expertise in small arms.
    More Details Hide Details Bond would eventually become a key witness for the prosecution in Looper's murder trial. Looper had stayed with Bond for a while, talking a great deal about how he had murdered his Senate opponent and how he needed to, among other things, change the tires on the car he had used in the murder, as well as hide the car. Looper was arraigned at a hearing that featured Bond as a surprise witness for the state. During the pre-trial phase, Looper attempted to have his former friend disgraced, and shuffled through at least six lawyers, one of whom filed a sealed court document explaining why, for ethical reasons, he could no longer be Looper's attorney. Tennessee state law required that the name of a candidate who died before the election be removed from the ballot, and it did not allow the candidate's party to replace a deceased candidate who died within 30 days of the election. Accordingly, after Burks' death, Looper became the only candidate listed on the official ballot for Burks' senate seat. This may have been Looper's intention.
    He was expected to win re-election easily in 1998.
    More Details Hide Details On the morning of October 19, 1998, authorities were called to investigate a likely murder at the Burks farm. Tommy Burks' body was found with his head resting on the steering wheel of his pickup truck and a single bullet wound above his left eye. Burks had been speaking moments earlier with a farmhand, Wesley Rex, about work that needed to be done on the farm. Both men had seen a black car drive by the farm on multiple occasions that morning, driven by a man in sunglasses and black gloves. The car had later sped by Rex's truck, allowing Rex to get a view of the driver. Cumberland County authorities immediately began a standard homicide investigation, but could find no one with any plausible reason to murder Burks. Then Rex called Burks' widow, Charlotte, after seeing a picture of Looper on television, and told her that Looper was the man he'd seen speeding away in the black car the morning of the murder.
    In the August 1998 primary, Looper sought the Republican nominations for both the Tennessee's 6th congressional district and the Tennessee State Senate.
    More Details Hide Details He failed in his quest for the Congressional nomination, finishing third in a field of four, but won the state senate nomination by default, as he was the only Republican candidate on the ballot. This set up his campaign against incumbent Democratic state senator Tommy Burks. Burks had represented Putnam County in the state legislature for 28 years, including four two-year terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives and five four-year terms in the Tennessee State Senate. A farmer and an old-style conservative Southern Democrat, he was popular in his district.
    In March 1998, following an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Looper was indicted on 14 counts of official misconduct, theft of services and official oppression for theft, misuse of county property and misuse of county employees.
    More Details Hide Details He claimed the charges were politically motivated due to Democratic control of Putnam County politics and the Tennessee General Assembly. The Cookeville Herald-Citizen newspaper regularly reported the Republican Tax Assessor's bizarre antics and public verbal assaults of Putnam County elected officials. The Tennessee Republican Party soon claimed no connection with Looper, though campaign contributions and lists of paid political consultants proved otherwise. Looper also faced legal problems from a former girlfriend who sued him for $1.2 million, saying that she got pregnant and bore a child after he forced her to engage in sexual activity and that he had used his official position to steal her house. Earlier he had run campaign ads in which he falsely represented the same girlfriend as his wife.
  • 1996
    Age 31
    In 1996, he legally changed his middle name from Anthony to "(Low Tax)" and ran successfully for the post of Putnam County tax assessor, defeating a 14-year incumbent after a campaign in which he did not make public appearances or participate in debates, instead relying heavily on negative campaign ads.
    More Details Hide Details As tax assessor, Looper used his office's equipment to send numerous press releases to Tennessee news media, making positive claims about himself and alleging various shortcomings on the part of other local officials. At the same time he seldom showed up for work and there were many reports of irregularities in property tax assessments.
  • 1994
    Age 29
    He lost a race for the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1994, when he ran against incumbent legislator Jere Hargrove.
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  • 1992
    Age 27
    In 1992, Looper returned to Tennessee and became a Republican.
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  • 1988
    Age 23
    He continued his political involvement as an officer in the Georgia Young Democrats organization and as a campaign worker in Al Gore's 1988 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and the 1992 Clinton-Gore presidential campaign.
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    In 1988, Looper ran for the Georgia House of Representatives as a Democrat, losing to Wyc Orr in the Democratic primary.
    More Details Hide Details He enrolled as a graduate student in the Stetson School of Business and Economics at Mercer University in Atlanta.
  • 1983
    Age 18
    Looper attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from 1983 to 1985, but was given an honorable discharge following what he says was a serious knee injury.
    More Details Hide Details After being discharged, he moved to Georgia, where he attended the University of Georgia and worked for the state legislature after graduation.
  • 1964
    Born on September 15, 1964.
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