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Minnesota Unsolved: A man dumped in a river, shot in the head

Search warrants reveal new details about a western Minnesota man’s unsolved murder – including 150 pounds of chains weighing down his body.

WHEATON, Minn. — Volunteers joined family, friends and law enforcement in a search that stretched out over 19 days before Terry McCoy’s body was found on July 6, 2020.

More than a year later, the murder of the 68-year-old retired construction equipment operator and nature lover remains of one of Minnesota's most intriguing unsolved mysteries.

Search warrants obtained by KARE 11 provide glimpses into the on-going investigation.

McCoy was last seen on June 17, just days before he was scheduled to sell his small farm near Wheaton in western Minnesota and move in with a friend.

Ready for his next chapter 

“This here would have been his bedroom,” says Mike Duggar.

The spare room inside Duggar’s Isanti home sits untouched, much like the bedrooms parents keep after losing a child.

“As long as I can look at this, I can still think about him,” Duggar said.

He says Terry McCoy was his best friend of 47 years. Terry planned to move in with him as soon as the farm was sold.

Credit: Traverse Co. Sheriff
Terry McCoy vanished days before he was to sell his farm.

Mike says Terry told him he’d found a couple willing to buy the property for the amount he owed on the mortgage, plus $25,000 or $30,000 cash under the table.

He says Terry was ready to sell and move onto the next chapter of his life.

“He wanted to sell it. He was happy because he was going to have money in his pocket and was going to come here,” Duggar recalls. “Then he wanted to take a couple trips with the money, probably grow old here too until we got tired of each other or whatever.”

A mysterious discovery 

Just days before the farm sale was scheduled to close, the home buyer stopped by to mow the lawn and found Terry's house unlocked.

Inside, the chair where Terry slept was broken. A small pool of blood was on the floor.

Terry’s shoes were nearby. So were his wallet and cell phone, apparently untouched.

But there was no sign of Terry.

Credit: Mike Duggar
Terry McCoy's chair was broken with a blood stain on the floor nearby.

For more than two weeks, law enforcement and volunteers searched the area without luck. They even drained the small pond behind Terry’s home.

“Please bring our dad home,” his son Brock pleaded. “Please bring our dad home.”

KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse interviewed Brock and Terry’s daughter Carrie on July 6, 2020 – the 19th day Terry was missing. 

“It had to be somebody that knew him,” Brock said at the time. “Somebody knew that he lived alone. Somebody knew that he was there at that farm at that time of night, alone.”

Little did they know, at the same time that interview was being done someone was discovering Terry's body in a river about seven miles from his farm.

Search warrants obtained by KARE 11 reveal Terry's body was nude, and that it had been weighted down with 150 pounds of log chain.

An autopsy showed McCoy had been shot in the back of the head.

A pastor with a past

The Traverse County Sheriff brought in the Minnesota BCA to help investigate the case.

More than a year has passed, but no one has been arrested or charged in connection with Terry's death. However, court records obtained by KARE 11 provide a window into the ongoing investigation – including some of the people investigators have considered as possible suspects.

One of them was a Saint Paul pastor with a record of past convictions.

Credit: KARE 11
Before his death, Pastor Danny Barnes spoke with KARE 11 about the McCoy murder.

KARE 11 obtained audio of an interview BCA agents conducted with Pastor Danny Barnes last year about Terry McCoy’s murder.

BCA: “What is some of the things you've heard about what happened to Terry?”

Danny Barnes: “I killed him.”

BCA: “You've heard that you killed him? Who's telling you that?”

Danny Barnes: “Facebook.”

Barnes told investigators that rumors were spreading about him on social media.

Possible motive?

Photos show Pastor Barnes was one of the first people to show up for the ground search when Terry was missing.

People in Wheaton found that odd because Barnes hadn’t lived there in years.

Fifteen years ago, Barnes had run a ministry and half-way house in Wheaton. It offered drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and often served former inmates like Barnes who needed to get on their feet.

Barnes acknowledges the program was not very popular in the community.

“Anybody who said that I brought a criminal element into the community would be telling the truth,” Barnes told KARE 11.

Credit: Danny Barnes
Pastor Danny Barnes was one of the volunteers searching for Terry McCoy.

After he started his ministry in Wheaton, Pastor Barnes himself began to have run-ins with local police. Court records show he stood trial multiple times in Wheaton.

One of the people who testified against him was none other than Terry McCoy.

Rumors swirled. Could that be a motive for revenge?

Barnes denies it. “There's probably a dozen people that have testified against me in court in Wheaton, and none of them are dead,” he said.

“Did you kill Terry McCoy?” KARE 11’s Lou Raguse asked.

“No,” Barnes replied.

“Did you have anything to do with his disappearance or death?”

“No,” he said again.

Records show the BCA executed at least one search warrant concerning Barnes but have not been able to connect the pastor to the murder.

Earlier this month, Pastor Barnes died of complications from COVID-19.

Questioning Terry’s family

Other search warrants reveal investigators were looking at another possible suspect – Terry's own son, Brock.

From the very start of the investigation, Brock acknowledged he was being questioned, too.

“The BCA contacted me a day after they began searching,” he told KARE 11 during an interview the same day Terry’s body was found. “They've questioned all of our family.”

Credit: KARE 11
Brock McCoy spoke to KARE 11 in July, 2020.

Since then, search warrants obtained by KARE 11 detail how investigators were told that "Brock dislikes Terry," that they "don't communicate with each other," and that Brock believed “Terry was selling his house too cheap."

So, where was Brock on the night his father disappeared?

Records show he told police he never left the Twin Cities. In a phone interview last year, Brock McCoy told KARE 11 he was at a sober house on Penn Avenue in Minneapolis where he was living at time.

But one of Brock’s housemates told KARE 11 Brock wasn’t at the sober house that night.

When police checked Brock's phone, records show they found a text message to another housemate late that afternoon. It stated: “Hey buddy. I'm at hcmc hospital. I have an nfection [sic] in my wound.”

Does that text give Brock an alibi?

According to a search warrant filed in the case, Brock never mentioned a hospital stay to investigators. And when the BCA checked with the hospital, HCMC informed investigators they have “no medical records” for Brock the night Terry disappeared.

Cell  phone records 

Besides the conflicting stories, there’s something else puzzling.

Search warrants show Brock's cell phone was apparently turned off the night his father disappeared. Records say it registered on a cell tower in Minneapolis at 9:46 p.m. June 17, but not again until 11:27 a.m. the next day.

That’s 13 and a half hours, more than enough time for someone to make the 3-hour drive to Wheaton and back with plenty of time in between.

Credit: KARE 11
Terry McCoy's small farm near Wheaton, Minnesota.

KARE 11 reached out to Brock McCoy requesting a new interview about the search warrant information, but he did not respond.

Brock has previously denied he was involved, and the BCA hasn’t come up with enough evidence to charge him or anyone else in the case.

“We have to trust that the BCA is doing the best that they can,” Brock told KARE 11 last year. “That's the only thing we can come up with, but someone out there has seen something.”

Asking for new leads

“It was like a piece of your life gets torn away from you,” explained Mike Duggar.

With no arrests nearly a year and a half after the murder, Terry's best friend says he no longer trusts the job investigators are doing.

But Duggar – and authorities – still hope someone will come forward with information that helps crack the case.

“I hope there is some conclusion to this case before I get too old and dead, and that somebody pays,” Duggar said. “Whoever did it needs to stay in prison for the rest of their natural life.”

Anyone who has information about what happened to Terry McCoy is encouraged to call the BCA tip line at 1-877-996-6222 or email bca.coldcase@state.mn.us