"The weakness of
the flesh"- Genesis
Surveillance video from
motel finally released
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
June 2, 2008
LAS VEGAS - Putting to rest speculation
that mob enemy Buffalo Jim Barrier was kidnapped, drugged, and left to
die in a Boulder Highway motel room, a video surveillance tape now shows
a weary looking Barrier checking in to Motel 6 at 8:20 PM on April 5, 2008.
A phone call placed at 9 PM the same evening
suggests that Barrier passed away within minutes after entering room 105
accompanied by a woman later identified only as "Lisa."
The handicap accessible room is located
adjacent to the front office on the well lit side of the motel facing the
highway. According to police, the motel was sold out and 105 was the last
room available that night.
Jennifer and Jessica Barrier, the 24 and
26 year old daughters of Buffalo Jim, last Friday asked me to go with them
to the Metro Police Homicide Division to view the motel surveillance tape.
Up until Friday, the tape was classified, and several requests made by
the family attorney to view it were declined.
The four daughters repeatedly told police
that being able to see their father's last moments alive would help them
find much needed closure, and they wanted to verify it was actually him
on the tape, but officers said they could not release the tape until the
coroner's report was issued.
The family was called to the coroner's
office last Tuesday morning to be given the autopsy results before the
information was made public.
Clark County Medical Examiner Larry Simms
wrote in the report: "It is my opinion that this 55 year old Caucasian
male, James Barrier, died as a result of Dilated
Cardiomyopathy. A significant contributing condition is Cocaine Intoxication."
Jennifer, in total disbelief of Dr. Simm's
statement, immediately called the private pathologist commissioned by the
family and told her about the findings. Though she had not yet finished
writing her report, Dr. Rexine Weller responded that she had also detected
cocaine in Buffalo Jim's system, and that he had suffered a heart attack.
Dr. Weller for the first time revealed that a blood clot was found in Barrier's
However, neither pathologist said they
had swabbed the upper cavities of Barrier's nose to detect if the drug
had been snorted, though cocaine was found on his beard, mustache, and
shirt when his body was discovered at 1:20 PM the next day by a motel housekeeper.
Cocaine can be taken by either inhaling,
drinking, or injecting the substance.
After hearing the shocking news, the girls
called me to say they could not accept that their dad died in such a way.
I cautioned them that the cocaine issue would make front
At first the four daughters agreed to not
comment to the press. But emotion took over and Jennifer Barrier made a
that evening on KTNV TV News. In it the family spokeswoman said
she cannot accept the manner in which her father's death is being portrayed.
That he was not that kind of man. She repeated her opinion that it was
"not him who took that," and that his death was a "set up." Jennifer ended
the interview with, "Are we ever going to know what really happened?"
The coroner's report made it even more
vital that the family be able to view the motel video to verify that their
dad had actually volunteered to step in harm's way.
Last Friday, homicide Lt. Lew Roberts invited
us to his office to view the tape and discuss the case. Detective Mark
Harding was also asked to attend.
The officers told the Barriers that police
can now discuss certain aspects of the case and show the tape since the
coroner's report had been made public. But they said there are other issues
related to the investigation that cannot be discussed at this time.
Buffalo Jim had effectively kept his occasional
cocaine use and friendship with Lisa a secret, though he publicly admitted
to abusing drugs and alcohol in his younger years. His friends and loving
daughters fully believed he had quit taking drugs years ago, though as
a single man he had every right to have a girl friend. His daughters also
believed him to be a devoted health fanatic in his later years.
Even after two pathologists confirmed drugs
were in his system that may have triggered a heart attack, Barrier's daughters
remain in disbelief insisting their dad met with foul play. And undeniably,
the sinister coincidences revolving around his death are hard to dispute
including the fact that Barrier died on the day following convicted racketeer
Rizzolo's release from federal prison. Barrier was the main force behind
Rizzolo's conviction along with the convictions of 15 Crazy Horse Too topless
bar employees and the seizure of the mob owned strip club by the federal
Also, during the time Barrier was providing
information to the FBI about Rizzolo's criminal activities, he was the
recipient of a series of death threats.
And in November 2007, Bart Rizzolo tried
to run Barrier over with his Range Rover. So it's not unreasonable for
the girls to cling to their foul play theory.
But the motel video tells a far different
story and opens new areas of concern regarding Barrier possibly playing
a part in his own death. He was a type 2 diabetic with past heart problems.
Though he appeared strong and healthy, his years of self admitted drug
and alcohol abuse may have taken a lethal toll.
Unlike many surveillance type videos, the
one shown to us was in color, clear, and steady. It was taken from a camera
on the east wall of the motel office and was aimed at the main entrance,
check in counter, and a large window on the west side of the room facing
the Boulder Highway.
Barrier entered the office looking physically
exhausted. He faced the camera and appeared to be in a somber mood as he
stepped up and leaned on to the counter, presented his credit card, waited
a moment, then signed the receipt. He fumbled with his wallet trying to
slip the credit card back into the slot, and had difficulty locating his
pants pocket to replace the wallet. There was no white powder apparent
on his beard, mustache, or shirt at the time.
In the video, Buffalo was clearly not the
jovial person I've known for the past nine years. He looked unsteady and
repressed. Not once did he smile, or joke with the clerk.
The entire check in process took around
four minutes before he exited the office and walked south to his car.
A few seconds later Barrier could be seen
through the office window walking to the north with a female following
him. They were on their way to room 105. Sometime during the next half
hour, Buffalo Jim Barrier would die.
From his appearance on the video, Buffalo
reminded me of several times while on trips to Disneyland and Universal
Studios with our families, I observed him when his blood sugar level was
dropping. At such times he would stop to buy a sandwich and glass of tomato
juice to raise his blood sugar level. Afterward, he was back to his nomal
self within seconds.
On April 7, Buffalo's autopsy showed that
his stomach was empty at the time of his death. A physician I consulted
for this column said that the combination of obesity, diabites, previous
heart condition, and cocaine could be the "perfect storm" to bring such
a man down.
Some of Barrier's friends have asked if
a person could orchastrate a combination of the above conditions to all
occur at once? If so, it would have to be a person with an intimate knowledge
of Barrier's medical condition and habits. There were only a few persons
in his life who knew these intimate details about him. Did Lisa know one
of these persons, possibly someone who hated Barrier?
Police traced Lisa's phone number from
her 9 PM call to Barrier's cell phone when she first called to ask if he
was OK. She also placed two calls to Barrier's home phone asking the same
question. One at around 9 PM, the other at 10 PM.
According to Lt. Roberts, Lisa told police
that she and Barrier had been friends for many years. That Barrier initiated
the April 5 date and picked her up in his Rolls Royce.
Lt. Roberts said there was a white powder
found on the passenger seat of the car, and powder on the room key.
Lisa reportedly described Barrier having
a coughing attack immediately after entering the room. Lt. Roberts did
not reveal whether she said he had taken cocaine in her presence, but stated
that the police would release more information they obtained from Lisa
after receiving an official written request from the family attorney.
It was obvious to me by his demeanor on
the video that Buffalo had not yet ingested any form of stimulant, but
it was likely Lisa had done so while riding in his car based on the powder
found on the passenger seat.
Lt. Roberts said that after the couple
entered the room, Lisa described Barrier coughing and choking, so she went
into the bathroom to get him a cup of water. She reportedly told police
that when she returned with the water, he was having a seizure and appeared
unconscious. She then told police that she immediately left the motel on
Roberts did not say why Lisa failed to
alert motel staff of Barrier's condition or call 911 after she left the
room, saying only that such things often happen when prostitutes experience
the death of a client, and do not want to be implicated.
He also said that the local district attorney
does not usually prosecute such
cases especially in a state like Nevada that does not have a depraved
It was suspected that Barrier left home
with a roll of cash that evening -- something he was well known to do --
but there was only one dollar found in his wallet after he died.
His driver's license was initially reported
missing, but it was later found. The Rolls Royce was not seen by Barrier's
daughters who were called to identify his body, but was later confirmed
to have been in the side parking lot all along.
Roberts and Harding expressed that they
are still looking into other specific issues involving the death, but cautioned
the daughters that if new information does not surface, the case could
I cannot at this time reveal what further
issues police said they plan to investigate. To do so could jeopardize
their investigation. But James Barrier surely deserves a better epitaph
than Dr. Simm's terse statement.
Buffalo Jim Barrier was a hero no matter
how he died. He will always be remembered, not for the weakness of his
flesh that evening in April, but for raising four amazing daughters, the
public service he provided, and for his boundless courage.
Copyright © Steve Miller