Unsolved Mysteries: Death in a Vegas Motel

Buffalo Jim.

What happened to Buffalo Jim, aka Jim Barrier, in a Las Vegas Motel 6 in April 2008? The fourth episode in Unsolved Mysteries, “Death in a Vegas Motel,” obviously doesn’t have the answers, but it does present some mysterious circumstances or coincidences. I’ve seen some comparing this episode to the Tiffany episode, “Mystery at Mile Marker 45,” and I disagree. The Tiffany episode, as I explained in my review, absolutely felt like a suicide the family was sadly in denial about. Here, there is enough intrigue to make the death of Buffalo Jim interesting to consider.

The prevailing theory is that Buffalo Jim left his house on April 5, 2008, and was found dead in his motel on April 6, 2008. He was found lying face up on two pillows with his shirt unbuttoned and naked below his waist. He had a “white powder-like substance” on his beard and shirt. However, there was no obvious sign of death. Despite the coroner in the episode saying that nobody apparently ever tested this “white powder-like substance” to see what it was, he found cocaine in Jim’s system and coupled with heart disease, ruled his death as relating to those two issues.

We know Jim took cocaine in the 1980s. His family, his friends and his acquaintances all acknowledge that, but they vehemently dispute that he was currently taking drugs, as he was proud of being clean. This is where I disagree with some of the feedback I’ve seen: As it regards the cocaine, it isn’t just the family denying he would have taken cocaine the night he died; it’s everyone who know him, or at least, everyone who knew him who agreed to be interviewed for the episode. That doesn’t mean he didn’t take the cocaine, but I think it’s worth emphasizing the family isn’t the only one disputing it. Obviously, parents don’t know everything their children are doing, and children certainly don’t know everything their parents are doing.

From a police investigation standpoint, it seems obvious that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department never considered the case suspicious or that foul play was involved. If they did, surely they wouldn’t have given Jim’s two daughters who came to identify the body his personal effects, such as his cell phone and wallet, as that would likely be evidence, right? The answer is almost always incompetence rather than something nefarious afoot, though.

We know that a woman named Lisa called and left a voicemail on Jim’s phone asking if he was okay. We later learn from Lisa’s witness statement to the LVMPD that she was a longtime friend of Jim’s and met up with him because she had a friend hard up financially who wanted to sell Jim a motorcycle. So, why go to a Motel 6 to do that? And what of this friend? Was he talked to to corroborate this story? What was funny to me is that the Unsolved Mysteries reenactment (and this episode has pretty bad reenactments, in my humble opinion) showed Lisa as dressing like a prostitute before they explained that she was a stripper at the Crazy Horse Too and/or a prostitute. She explained to the LVMPD that they took a lot of cocaine, he started seizing, and she left.

The rub (heh) is with Crazy Horse Too, a strip club establishment positioned in the middle of a strip mall (heh) where Jim’s professional wrestling show was on one side and his auto shop was on the other side. This created apparent consternation between the owner of Crazy Horse Too, Rick Rizzolo, and Jim. The former wanted to buy Jim out for an expansion of his establishment and Jim refused. Jim alleged Crazy Horse Too employees then vandalized cars he was working on. He was in the process of suing the Crazy Horse Too prior to his death. In addition to that, the FBI was already looking into Rick Rizzolo and his establishment for tax evasion. We learn that Jim was feeding the FBI information for two years. Rick would go on to serve 10 months in prison and be released to house arrest a month before Jim’s death, with his house arrest ending on April 4, 2008. That’s an interesting coincidence for someone it is heavily implied had mob connections.

The mob explanation for Jim’s death is hard to swallow, though (heh, again). There was no apparent external injuries to Jim’s body, according to the coroner. And for such a big, burly man, there were no defensive wounds, either. So, a.) the mob is probably going to violently beat you up and kill you, right? and b.) how could you force such a big man to take cocaine against his will with no external injuries or defensive wounds to show for it? The theory perhaps is that Lisa tricked Jim in to taking it by putting it in his drink or maybe even giving it to him intravenously while he slept.

So, while the manner of death, if it was murder, is hard to imagine, there are still two outstanding mysteries: 1.) We know that Room 105 where Jim was staying was accessed by a “guest” at 8:15 p.m., but Jim is seen on security camera checking in to the motel at 8:22 p.m.; what accounts for that? and 2.) The police and Jim’s daughters didn’t know where Jim’s Rolls-Royce was after his body was found and then it turned up later that night; what accounts for that? I don’t have good answers or plausible theories for either.

The retired FBI agent seems like he has questions about Jim’s death, but I’m surprised the FBI wasn’t more interested in his death if he was an informant of sorts for their case against Rizzolo for two years. I know the FBI can’t directly investigate a case like that, but I found that curious, too.

I don’t know what happened to Buffalo Jim. He certainly seemed to live high on the hog, as it were, enjoying an ostentatious lifestyle, replete with a giant house and a Rolls-Royce (how did he make that kind of money running an auto shop and an independent professional wrestling show, though?), and we know he’s previously taken cocaine, so it is not at all beyond the realm of possibility that this one is straightforward: He met a prostitute, went over his skis with cocaine and died. I do think it’s interesting the cocaine issue is disputed by everyone, but nobody addresses why and how Jim was found half naked. If cocaine was beyond the pale for him, why wasn’t apparently meeting with a stripper and/or prostitute? I can tell you, Buffalo Jim would not be the first person associated with professional wrestling to tragically die young due to drug use and/or heart disease.

Nonetheless, even if it turns out to be what it appears, there is enough mystery in this episode to have made it intriguing.

What do you think?

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