From the Vault...
SSgt. Barry Sadler
© Collector's Choice Music Records
On December 1, 1978 at around 11pm, Sadler killed country songwriter Lee Emerson Bellamy with one gunshot to the head. The shooting was the culmination of a month's long dispute the men had over Darlene Sharp, who was Bellamy's former girlfriend, and Sadler's girlfriend at the time. Bellamy was not pleased by her involvement with Sadler. Witnesses gave testimony that prior to the shooting, Bellamy made many harassing phone calls to Sadler, and numerous threats on his life. On the night in question, Bellamy made several harassing phone calls, including one to the Natchez Trace Restaurant, where Sadler and Sharp were having dinner and drinks with several friends. That led to Sadler asking the bartender to call the police, who never responded. Bellamy later followed the group to Sharp's residence and knocked on the door. Sadler exited a side door to try to catch him in the act, and upon seeing Sadler, Bellamy proceeded to aggressively approach him. It was at this point, Sadler testified, that he saw a flash of metal. Thinking this was a gun, he discharged his weapon once. Bellamy was struck in the head and died the following morning. It was later shown that Bellamy was unarmed, and that the flash of etal was likely from his car keys. After the shooting, according to court records on the case, Sadler then placed a handgun into Bellamy's van. This may have been to strengthen his case for self defense, which initially, is what Sadler claimed. This was later changed to a plea of guilty.
On June 1, 1979 Sadler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Lee Emerson Bellamy, and sentenced to 4–5 years in prison. Upon appeal, due to the circumstances of the case, his sentence was reduced to the 21 days already served in a Tennessee workhouse. Sadler was later sued for wrongful death by Bellamy's estate, and was ordered to pay restitution of around $10,000.
Sadler moved to Guatemala City in the mid 1980s and often hung out at a bar/restaurant called La Europa (also known as Freddie's Bar for the German proprietor). He continued to publish the Casca books (mostly using various ghostwriters), produced a self-defense video (which was never released) and even helped with vaccination programs in rural villages.
It was in Guatemala City that he was shot in the head one night in a taxi. He was airlifted to the U.S. by friends from Soldier Of Fortune Magazine, where he was hospitalized and remained in a coma for several months. He died little more than a year later in the Alvin C. York Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The circumstances involving his shooting remain a mystery. It has been variously claimed that he committed suicide, that he shot himself accidentally while showing off to a female companion, and that he was assassinated for allegedly training and arming the Contras. The most common story identifies the incident as a robbery. According to his companion at the time, he had been training Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries and had received death threats.
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