An incident report from the Morgan County Correctional Complex reveals what happened in the hours before the death of Looper, who was serving a life sentence in East Tennessee for assassinating his political opponent, Sen. Tommy Burks, in 1998.
The Tennessee Department of Correction has called in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to probe the 48-year-old Looper’s death and on Thursday referred all questions to that agency.
Looper, who legally changed his middle name to “Low Tax,” ran against Burks, a popular Democrat, in 1998.
Burks, who had held office in Tennessee for 28 years, was found slumped over in his truck on his farm in Monterey on Oct. 19, 1998, shot near his left eye. Looper was charged in the crime and convicted of first-degree murder.
At the time of his trial, then-13th Judicial District Attorney Bill Gibson said Looper was a man “obsessed with the burning desire for power and public office.”
Looper’s family has declined to talk about his death. But his former attorney, McCracken “Ken” Poston, said Looper was a colorful character in both Georgia and Tennessee politics.
“The fact that Byron was an unusual, if often difficult, client is well documented,” Poston said in a prepared statement. “His family in Georgia deserves to mourn their loss in peace.”
In Georgia, Looper had attempted to jump-start his political career in the Democratic Party. Having no success, he moved to Tennessee as a Republican, where he won his only election in 1996 to become Putnam County’s property assessor. While in office, he racked up 14 counts of official misconduct, theft of services and official oppression for theft, misuse of county property and misuse of county employees, records show.