Assistant Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg said Monday that his office has no plans to exhume the body of James “Buffalo Jim” Barrier for further testing.
Family members last week said they were requesting that Barrier’s body be exhumed to take hair samples to determine whether he had a history of drug use.
Barrier, a colorful mechanic and former professional wrestler, was found dead in his motel room in April. The coroner’s office announced that he suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which heart muscles become weakened and enlarged. Cocaine in his system also contributed to his death.
The family contends that further testing would show that Barrier was not a drug user. The family also contends that he was murdered.
Barrier’s daughter Jennifer Barrier said that coroner’s officials have indicated during their meetings that the Metropolitan Police Department did not sufficiently investigate the 55-year-old’s death.
She said large quantities of cocaine were detected in his system; she believes he was forced to ingest a deadly amount. A hair sample, she said, would offer a history of Barrier’s drug use. Jennifer Barrier said she granted the coroner’s office permission to take a hair sample, but it wasn’t done.
Fudenberg would not confirm this assertion. “I can’t give details about meetings with the family,” he said.
Jennifer Barrier said the room where her father was found was never considered a crime scene and sealed off. When her 15-year-old sister showed up at the motel, officers gathered Barrier’s belongings and handed them to her.
“They gave back his belongings like it was some kind of sleepover,” she said.
Fudenberg declined to discuss specifics about the Barrier case, but spoke about the exhumation process in generalities. He said bodies are exhumed only if a law enforcement agency needs it done for criminal prosecution.
“We would certainly consider it, but we would have to have some legitimate reason to do it — if there was new evidence or something to that effect,” Fudenberg said.
Detective Mike Harding did not return a phone message left Monday afternoon. On Friday, police spokesman Bill Cassell said he was unaware of a request to exhume Barrier’s body.
The coroner collects all the samples possible during its examination for a body so that if new evidence is revealed, it has the necessary information. Fudenberg said he had been unaware of the Barrier family’s wish to have James Barrier’s body exhumed, a process that costs between $800 and $2,000.
“We haven’t received a request to do that,” he said.
Jennifer Barrier said the coroner’s office referred her to the Police Department, where detectives there said they would see what they could do to answer her questions. She said they had indicated they would push to exhume his body, a decision that ultimately rests with the coroner’s office.
Jennifer Barrier said if her wish is not granted by Las Vegas police or the coroner’s office, she will hire an attorney to help with her battle to solve what she sees as the mystery surrounding her father’s death.