Police hope to solve Knox man's 1994 murder with new technology

Police hope to solve Knoxville man's 1994 murder with new technology

George Anthony "Tony" Barrett (source: Knoxville Police Department) George Anthony "Tony" Barrett (source: Knoxville Police Department)

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knoxville police investigators still have hope for solving the cold case of George Anthony "Tony" Barrett, who was murdered 16 years ago.

They believe there is a lot of evidence that could help them solve who killed Barrett, who was 33 at the time of his death.

He was found gagged and beaten to death with a baseball bat in his home in July 1994.

Police think a love triangle may have led to the murder. They hope modern DNA testing on some of the evidence will lead them to his killer.

Sherry Shoopman is Barrett's older sister. She and her then-husband, Lonnie, were the ones who found Barrett dead in his home.

Shoopman says Barrett was youngest of six children. At 6'2" and 220 pounds, he was a big baby his family loved very much.

"And Tony, we called him Horse, because he could put more food away than anybody, he's missed Mom's cooking all these years, all the Christmases, weddings, anniversaries," Shoopman said.

She says she and her husband were supposed to hang out with Tony the night they found him dead.

"When I looked in the window, we could see him laying there," Shoopman said. "That's when we took a huge rock and broke the window. I crawled in and opened the front door for Lonnie to get in." 

Because Tony was a big man, investigators are certain more than one person was involved in the attack on him.

Nevin Long, with the Knoxville Police Department Special Crimes Unit, is the lead investigator in the case.

"He was seeing a young woman at the time. Kimberly Sutton was her name," Long said.

Sutton had recently split up with her husband, David Hopkins. Long says Hopkins and Barrett had some misunderstandings in the past.

"They had some squabbles in the past over narcotics because [Hopkins] had purchased some narcotics in the past from Barrett. And now that his wife, Kimberly, is romantically involved with Barrett, there's some tension there," Long explained.

Long says Hopkins was close friends with a man named David Riggs. Investigators think Riggs was also involved in the murder.

In fact, they know Riggs stole a gun the day Barrett was found murdered.

"My theory right now is they went to the house and probably used that gun to hold Mr. Barrett hostage or at bay. And then they either didn't want to risk the noise or the gun wasn't loaded. So they used a blunt object to actually kill him," Long saidys.

He also says investigators have a lot of solid evidence in this case, but still need more to bring closure to the Barrett family.

Long says in the last 16 years, Hopkins, Riggs and Sutton have been in and out of jail for various crimes.

"We are all still heart-broken, and our Mama, we just celebrated her 80th birthday. Sixteen years of not having her baby has aged her," Shoopman said.

Anyone with information that could help solve this case should call the Knoxville Police Department Special Crimes Unit at (865) 215-7140.

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