Convicted killer 'Low Tax' Looper dies in prison

12:41 AM, Jun 27, 2013   |    comments
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Byron "Low Tax" Looper, 48, dies in prison.

A notorious killer from East Tennessee was found dead Wednesday in his prison cell at the Morgan County Correctional Complex.

Byron "Low Tax" Looper was a household name in the late 1990s. The one-time property assessor was convicted of assasinating State Senator Tommy Burks.  Looper was running against Burks for his long time state senate seat.

The TBI is investigating the circumstances surrounding Looper's death in prison.

The news that broke Wednesday meant closure for people close to Burks' family. It brought back memories and strong emotions from his friend, Hank Fincher.

"For a lot of people that don't have the personal involvement, I'm sure it's just another news item," said Fincher, a Cookeville lawyer and former State Representative. "But for me personally, it's good riddance to bad rubbish. That man killed my friend. He killed a father, a grandfather, he assassinated a political leader in an attempt to take over."

In the 13 years since Looper's conviction, Fincher knew his friend's murderer was being punished. But it wasn't until now that he feels there's justice.

"It's probably not the Christian thing to do to say, you're glad that someone is dead. I'm not glad he's dead but I've got to tell you there's a grim satisfaction in it," Fincher said.

After Burks' murder, Hank Fincher found himself in an bizarre situation.

He and the rest of the Cookeville community were mourning Burks, but as the Vice Chairman of Putnam County's Democratic Party, he was left with a looming election just a few weeks away. Byron Looper as the only candidate.

"The state party contacted me and asked me to coordinate a write-in campaign which was the only way we could get anyone elected," he said.

Fincher says he couldn't allow Looper the satisfaction of winning.

"It would have been an absolute disaster if that man would have been elected by the people," Fincher said.

He told Burks' wife, Charlotte, about the predicament. She volunteered to be the candidate.

In an interview in 1998, Fincher told 10news about that difficult conversation.

"When she told me her decision, I asked her I said, 'Charlotte, are you sure you can do this? And she said I have no choice. It's what Tommy would have wanted.'" Fincher said in an 1998 interview.

But Tennessee's Volunteer spirit kicked in. Charlotte Burks won with 98% of the vote and still holds the office today.

Burks is still remembered in Cookeville and around the region for his hard-work and dedication to his farm and the state legislature.

"Tommy had a strong handshake, callused hands from working on the farm, and wasn't afraid to scrap," said Fincher.

Previous Story

(WBIR-Wartburg) A convicted killer of a state senator was found dead inside his cell at the Morgan County Correctional Complex Wednesday morning.

Byron "Low Tax" Looper, 48, was serving a life sentence without parole for murdering Sen. Tommy Burks in 1998, who was his political rival.

Officials declared Looper dead at approximately 11:10 a.m.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will be investigating Looper's death.


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