Las Vegas Sun

November 12, 2018

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Police: No evidence ‘Buffalo’ Jim was killed

Rizzolo enemy in long-running feud seen registering at motel alone


Richard Brian

Buffalo” Jim Barrier was a colorful wrestling promoter and auto mechanic who had a running feud with former Crazy Horse Too owner Rick Rizzolo. Since the body of the 55-year-old Barrier was found April 6 at a Motel 6 on Boulder Highway, his daughters have pressed authorities to treat his death as the result of foul play.

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Metro Police have gathered evidence about the death of “Buffalo” Jim Barrier that appears to dispel claims by his family and close friends that he died as a result of foul play.

The evidence includes a surveillance tape showing a contented-looking Barrier checking into a Motel 6 on Boulder Highway the night before he died.

“There is nothing to indicate that anything was amiss when he was renting that room,” said Capt. Randy Montandon, who viewed the four-minute surveillance tape. “He was in no distress and appeared to be in good spirits.”

Montandon said no one else appeared on the tape when the 55-year-old Barrier registered about 8:20 p.m. April 5.

But police are trying to determine whether someone later accompanied the colorful Las Vegas auto mechanic and wrestling promoter to his room.

Montandon said a motel clerk told police that Barrier implied there would be another occupant with him in the room.

“There’s a possibility he may have been with a woman,” said one source close to the investigation. “There would be no other known reason from him to be there.”

The source said Barrier, who was not married, was known to meet women on occasion at different motels, including that Motel 6.

A motel maid found his body April 6 lying face up on a bed with his pants around his ankles, sources said. A voice message had been left on his cell phone by an unidentified woman before the discovery of his body, asking if he was all right.

Some of Barrier’s friends have suggested he was drugged and brought to the motel room in his Rolls Royce and the luxury car was taken from the parking lot and cleaned after his death.

But those claims are contradicted by motel witnesses and other evidence, including the surveillance videotape showing Barrier registering under his own power, Montandon said.

The Rolls Royce was parked in a spot that was not visible from the motel room, and witnesses reported that it never left the parking lot, Montandon said.

Police called to the scene of Barrier’s death took photos of the keys to the Rolls Royce, Barrier’s wallet and some cash, all found in the motel room, Montandon said.

“There is nothing that would be indicative of any kind of altercation or struggle in the room,” Montandon said. “It appears to be a natural cause of death.”

Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy said Monday that an examination of the body has turned up no evidence of foul play.

But Murphy is waiting for toxicology and other lab test results before officially determining the cause of death.

That has given Barrier’s family and friends reason to speculate that his death was not natural.

Barrier, whose auto repair shop is next door to the Crazy Horse Too, had a public feud with its former owner, Rick Rizzolo, whom law enforcement authorities have long suspected of having ties to organized crime.

For more than a decade, Barrier had kept in regular contact with FBI agents conducting a racketeering investigation of the topless club that ultimately landed Rizzolo in federal prison on tax evasion charges. Rizzolo was formally released from prison April 4, two days before Barrier’s body was discovered.

Last week, Barrier’s daughters met with FBI agents and Metro Police detectives to voice their concerns about his death. The family also hired a private investigator and a pathologist to conduct an independent autopsy.

Barrier was buried Saturday following a well-attended funeral at Palm Mortuary downtown.

Jeff German is the Sun’s senior investigative reporter.

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