‘Unsolved Mysteries’ Explores Buffalo Jim’s Mysterious Death—Did Someone Lure Him To His Murder?

Sophie Hanson
Buffalo Jim
Photo: Netflix/Unsolved Mysteries

Buffalo Jim was a well-known and colorful character in Las Vega-a wrestler, promoter, owner of an auto repairs shop and cable TV personality, he was found dead in a hotel room in 2008. With a lethal amount of cocaine in his system, local police deemed his death an overdose, but his family is convinced he was the victim of foul play. So how did Buffalo Jim die really? It’s the subject of an episode titled “Death in a Vegas Motel Room” on Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries Volume 3.

When Buffalo Jim, whose real name is Jim Barrier, was found deceased in room 105 at a Motel 6, an autopsy revealed he was positive for cocaine and his cause of death was officially listed as a combination of heart disease and drug intoxication. But his daughters, who are interviewed as part of the documentary series, are adamant he wasn’t a drug user. So, how did Buffalo Jim die and what happened to him? Here’s everything we know.

How did Buffalo Jim die?

Buffalo Jim

Netflix/Unsolved Mysteries

How did Buffalo Jim die? The why matter of contention if you ask his daughters. On April 5, 2008, Jim Barrier was found dead in his room at a Motel 6 along the Boulder Highway in Las Vegas the day after he checked in. His body was discovered by housekeeping who entered his room at approximately 1.10 pm when he was unresponsive. Police and paramedics were called and when he was unable to be resuscitated, he was declared dead at 2.30 pm. According to the Clark County coroner’s report, Jim was lying on his bed, nude from the waist down. There was white powder around his nose and on the front of his clothes, but no illicit drugs were found at the scene and there was no obvious sign of a struggle or trauma.

Upon informing one of Barrier’s daughters of her father’s death, the coroner noted that the night before he passed, he told her he was going out but she didn’t know who with and he didn’t say. He was “in good spirits” when he left, according to the report. Taking into Jim’s medical history of diabetes and significant heart disease, the use of cocaine had caused his heart to stop and his death was ruled as accidental and it wasn’t treated as a crime scene. But his daughter Jennifer Barrier is not convinced and feels certain her father was murdered.

There are a few reasons for this, one notably being that Jennifer says her father had not used illicit drugs in years. “I asked [the detective] to two days after my dad was found dead if he could please take a hair sample because I wanted to prove my dad wasn’t a drug user and that would show that. And he goes, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea’,” Jennifer explained on the show. After her father was buried, she called the detective again and revealed “he never took the hair sample. I wanted that hair sample to prove my dad wasn’t a drug user because my father said that’s how they’d get him.”

Did Rick Rizzolo kill Buffalo Jim?

Despite being a beloved character in Las Vegas, Buffalo Jim had some enemies. The owner of the Crazy Horse strip club, Rick Rizzolo, had been released from prison two days before Jim’s death. The pair had fought numerous times over parking spaces and how Jim’s auto-repair shop was disrupting Rizzolo’s plan to expand the Crazy Horse. In 2006, Jim worked with the FBI in their investigation of Rizzolo’s alleged connection to organized crime and tax evasion, the latter for which Rizzolo spent a year and one day in prison for pleading guilty to. Friends and family suspect Rizzolo might have had a hand in Buffalo Jim’s murder as an act of revenge. Some speculate that someone “forced cocaine into” Barrier, while another points to his murder being a “get-out-of-jail gift” to Rizzolo.

What did Buffalo Jim’s death threats say?

Another theory to support the claim that Jim had been murdered was that, in the weeks leading up to his death, he received multiple threatening letters and calls. One such letter, obtained by Las Vegas Weekly and published in 2008 read:

BARRIER,

MEETINGS HAVE BEEN TAKING PLACE AT VARIOUS LOCATIONS AROUND TOWN BY RICK RIZZOLO … RICK WAS ONE OF THE PERSONS DRIVING AROUND YOUR PROPERTY LAST WEEK. BE CAREFUL HE’S UP TO NO GOOD. HE’S USING PEOPLE TO GET CLOSE TO YOU. HE’S DISCUSSED USING A FEMALE TO GET ACCESS TO YOUR BUSINESS.

Buffalo Jim

Netflix/Unsolved Mysteries

Did Lisa kill Buffalo Jim?

As heard in the episode of Unsolved Mysteries, an unidentified woman known only as Lisa, a stripped at the Crazy Horse, told police that she was in the room with Barrier on the night he died. She said he’d suffered a seizure and she panicked but she left without calling 911. Keycard data for the hotel room shows a guest card was used a few minutes before the lobby video camera shows Barrier checking in, suggesting that someone was already in the room waiting for him, but there’s no mention of this person being captured by the same lobby camera, which is weird. The police also found multiple cell phones in Jim’s hotel room at Motel 6 and neither belonged to him, according to his daughters. “I think my father did get lured out by that woman, Lisa,” Jennifer alleged on Unsolved Mysteries and accused police of ignoring significant but circumstantial evidence. “It wasn’t investigated properly for us to be able to tell.”

Was Buffalo Jim killed in a mob hit?

Another sign that suggests Barrier might have been murdered is the contents of his back pocket. A folded one-dollar bill was found in Barrier’s jeans and it could be interpreted as a calling card for a mob hit, as Barrier’s daughters explain. When StyleCaster looked into this online, though, we couldn’t find anything to back up this theory.

What happened to Buffalo Jim’s car?

The keys to Jim’s Rolls-Royce were with him when his body was discovered, but oddly, the luxury vehicle was nowhere to be seen in the parking lot of Motel 6. The Barrier family pressed the police about the location of his car and it was miraculously found in a parking lot in an area that had already been searched. Upon inspection, signs suggest the car had been cleaned, further adding to the mystery of Buffalo Jim’s death.

Unsolved Mysteries is available to stream on Netflix.

Darkest Unsolved Mysteries: From The Netflix Series ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

Unsolved Mysteries

Edward Collins

What is it about unsolved mysteries that are so alluring, so chilling? We are fascinated by the unexplained, filled with a sort of weird hope that we might the ones to crack the case ourselves. This book, inspired by the Netflix series Unsolved Mysteries, presents these intriguing cases in a written format. Explore the perplexing cases, shocking murders and paranormal encounters in this gripping book.

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