What happened to Jim Barrier? Theories around Unsolved Mysteries case
The Las Vegas personality is at the centre of Unsolved Mysteries' fourth episode – but what happened to the auto mechanic and was there evidence of foul play regarding his death?
So far this season, we've learnt about the deaths of Tiffany Valiante – a promising young athlete who was struck by a train in 2015 – and David Carter, who was killed in Michigan in 2018, at the same time as his girlfriend Tammy Williams fled the state.
The next episode within the Unsolved Mysteries Volume 3 line-up looks into the case of Buffalo Jim Barrier – a local celebrity in Las Vegas, wrestling school owner and auto mechanic whose 2008 death was ruled as an accident, although his family believe there was foul play involved.
Read on to learn everything we know so far about Buffalo Jim's death.
Who was Buffalo Jim Barrier?
Jim Barrier, who was also known as Buffalo Jim, was a wrestling promoter and auto mechanic who died in April 2008 at the age of 55.
The Las Vegas resident was a father to four daughters who became a local celebrity after opening his own wrestling school, the Buffalo Wresting Federation, and filming his local TV show Jim Wars.
He also ran Auto & Marine Electric, a car mechanic shop located in Las Vegas near to now-closed strip club Crazy Horse Too, whose owner 'Rick' Rizzolo was involved in a long-running feud with Barrier over a property dispute.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Rizzolo – who was also Barrier's landlord – wanted Barrier off his property so he could expand his club, however Barrier refused. In May 2004, the Las Vegas Small Claims Court ruled in favour of Barrier, ruling that Rizzolo could not have cars towed from Barrier's business and ordering him to reimburse the towing charge and court fee.
In 2006, Rizzolo pleaded guilty to tax evasion, was stripped of his business and spent six months in a federal prison, with Barrier reportedly helping to solidify the federal case. The Last Vegas Review-Journal reports he was released one day before Barrier was found dead.
What happened to Buffalo Jim Barrier?
On April 6th 2008, Barrier was found dead at a Motel 6 on Boulder Highway, having been pronounced dead at 2:30pm, according to The Las Vegas Sun.
A month later, the death was ruled as an accident, with the Clark County Coroner concluding that he died of dilated cardiomyopathy – a disease which causes the heart to become enlarged and weakened.
A toxicology report also found cocaine in Barrier's body and cocaine intoxication was listed as a "contributing condition" to his heart problem, while the coroner said that there was "no indication of foul play" at the time.
According to the publication, there was a woman with Barrier at the motel the night before, who told police that he appeared to have a seizure.
Despite the coroner's finding, Barrier's family and friends have stated that they believe foul play was involved – a theory that is explored in Unsolved Mysteries.
Buffalo Jim Barrier death theories
The four daughters of Buffalo Jim Barrier have publicly said that they believe their father was murdered, with Jennifer Barrier telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2008 that she wasn't satisfied with the coroner's explanation.
Jennifer said that she found inconsistencies in an interview with a key witness in the case – a woman identified only as 'Lisa', who was the last person known to see Barrier alive. According to Jennifer, 'Lisa' told the police that Jim was taking large amounts of cocaine and acting strangely prior to his death and that when he went to the bathroom, she left the room. However, later in the interview, Jennifer reported that 'Lisa' said he was lying in bed suffering from a seizure when she left the motel.
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"She lied," Jennifer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I asked why they won’t make her take a lie detector test, and they said she [Lisa] would have to agree to it. The way this has been handled is really not fair."
Jennifer also claimed that police did not seal off the motel room, and that they were aware of death threats against her father in earlier weeks.
According to Las Vegas Weekly, Jim Barrier had "concerns for his safety" after receiving death threats, with the auto mechanic telling journalist Joshua Longobardy: "They're gonna try to do it through a woman. Or they're gonna try to drug me."
He had also received letters in the mail, alleging that plots were being made on his life by Rick Rizzolo and his family.
Las Vegas police Captain Randy Montandon told the Las Vegas Review-Journal at the time that there was no evidence of foul play and that Jim Barrier had made numerous reports to police "outlining all kinds of situations," but no death threats had been recently reported.
While the Barriers said that they believed someone else checked into the room and placed Barrier's body on the bed, Montandon said that he had "personally watched [a] video" of Barrier checking into the room and speaking to the motel clerk.
"He was not under duress. He was not accompanied, and he appeared to be in good spirits," he said.
However, Jerica Barrier told Las Vegas Weekly that her father left the house in his Rolls Royce at 7:15pm and, according to his phone records, spoke to an unsaved number at 7:40pm for seven minutes and 47 seconds. From a saved voicemail, Jerica claimed she was able to work out that the woman on the phone was called Lisa.
The next day, when Jerica and her sister Elise arrived at Motel 6, they did not see their father's Rolls Royce in the car park - however, when they were handed his belongings in an envelope, it included the keys to his car. The police found the car later that night and said that it was in the car park, and when a close family friend went to retrieve it, they noted that it was "very clean".
While Barrier's family suspected that Rizzolo may have been involved, Montandon told Las Vegas Weekly in 2008 that neither Rizzolo nor his associates were interviewed in connection with the case.