Pilot in fatal copter crash faces murder-for-hire charge
Posted October 19, 2010 3:09 p.m. EDT
Johnson City, Tenn. — The man who was at the controls of a helicopter that crashed six years ago, killing a Franklin County deputy, is now in jail in Tennessee on a charge that he tried to pay someone to kill a romantic rival.
Ben Barrick has been charged with solicitation of first-degree murder, and he is being held in the Washington County, Tenn., jail under a $150,000 bond.
Investigators allege that Barrick paid an undercover informant $100 to kill his ex-girlfriend's former boyfriend. He also gave the man a loaded handgun and a photo of the intended victim, according to investigators.
In May 2004, Franklin County Deputy Ted Horton was killed during an aerial search for drugs when the helicopter he was riding in crashed.
An investigation revealed that metal fatigue caused the tail boom to fail, and a National Transportation Safety Board investigator also concluded Barrick's inexperience as a pilot led to the crash.
Barrick was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the crash, but prosecutors dismissed the charge in July 2008 because of lack of evidence. Federal law barred the NTSB investigator from testifying.
Franklin County officials also alleged that Barrick deceived them, signing a secret deal with the former sheriff to put a faulty helicopter in service and burden the county with the liability.
Horton's widow dropped her civil suit against Barrick early this year. Her attorney said Barrick had no assets to pay a judgment in the case.
Court rulings previously dropped Franklin County and the sheriff's office from the suit because they were protected by governmental immunity.