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Pal: 'Low Tax' Admitted Slaying

A surprise witness has testified that a Tennessee county official accused of killing Tennessee State Sen. Tommy Burks before this month's election plotted the crime for months and confessed afterward.

Putnam County Tax Assessor Byron "Low Tax" Looper, 34, stands accused of shooting Burks last month and will remain in jail until a February hearing. At that time, results of a grand jury proceeding will be announced, said Anthony Craighead of the Cumberland County prosecutor's office.

Marine Sgt. Joe Bond, a high school friend of Looper's, testified at a preliminary hearing on Monday that Looper confessed to shooting Burks during an unexpected overnight visit to Bond's home in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the night after the murder.

"He said, 'I did it, man. I did it,'" Bond quoted Looper as saying.

Looper, who had changed his middle name to "Low Tax" in a political gesture, was the underdog Republican candidate for Democrat Burks' long-held state senate seat.

Burks' widow, Charlotte, stood in for her dead husband and trounced the jailed Looper with the help of write-in votes in the Nov. 3 election.

Looper, who had renewed an occasional friendship with Bond last spring, also had often asked Bond about how to obtain and use guns, Bond said, adding that he had refused to buy Looper a weapon.

Bond said Looper had once told him that under Tennessee law, a candidate that dies cannot appear on the ballot.

Defense attorneys were caught off-guard by Bond's appearance since they did not know he would be testifying. He had only come forward to prosecutors recently.

"The first week, Bond did not really believe that Looper had done this," Craighead said about the lag.

"Then he was wrestling with his conscience about turning a friend in," he added. "He wanted to do the right thing, so he talked things over with his father, then contacted his lawyer and they got in touch with us."

Authorities have said a farmhand on Burks' Monterey, Tennessee, farm saw Looper speeding away shortly after he heard a "pop" sound. Burks, 58, was found slumped in his truck, a bullet wound above his left eye on the day of the killing, Oct. 19.

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