A Disturbing Killing in Clay County, Kentucky
by Charles Lemos, Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 04:31:05 PM EDT
Bill Sparkman, a 51-year old part-time Census field worker, was found hanged from a tree near a cemetery in rural Clay County, Kentucky with the word "fed" scrawled on his chest. Mr. Sparkman was found on September 12th in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in the southeastern corner of the Bluegrass state.
The story from the San Francisco Chronicle:
A U.S. Census worker found hanged from a tree near a Kentucky cemetery had the word "fed" scrawled on his chest, a law enforcement official said Wednesday, and the FBI is investigating whether he was a victim of anti-government sentiment.
The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, did not say what type of instrument was used to write the word on the chest of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher. He was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky.
The Census has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation. An autopsy report is pending.
Investigators have said little about the case. FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is assisting state police and declined to confirm or discuss any details about the crime scene.
"Our job is to determine if there was foul play involved -- and that's part of the investigation -- and if there was foul play involved, whether that is related to his employment as a Census worker," said Beyer.
Attacking a federal worker during or because of his federal job is a federal crime.
Sparkman's mother, Henrie Sparkman of Inverness, Fla., told The Associated Press her son was an Eagle scout who moved to the area to be a local director for the Boy Scouts of America. She said he later became a substitute teacher in Laurel County and supplemented that income as a Census worker.
She said investigators have given her few details about her son's death -- they told her the body was decomposed -- and haven't yet released his body for burial. "I was told it would be better for him to be cremated," she said.
Henrie Sparkman said her son's death is a mystery to her.
"I have my own ideas, but I can't say them out loud. Not at this point," she said. "Right now, what I'm doing, I'm just waiting on the FBI to come to some conclusion."
Lucindia Scurry-Johnson, assistant director of the Census Bureau's southern office in Charlotte, N.C., said law enforcement officers have told the agency the matter is "an apparent homicide" but nothing else.
Census employees were told Sparkman's truck was found nearby, and a computer he was using for work was found inside it, she said. He worked part-time for the Census, usually conducting interviews once or twice a month.
Sparkman has worked for the Census since 2003, spanning five counties in the surrounding area. Much of his recent work had been in Clay County, officials said.
Door-to-door operations have been suspended in Clay County pending a resolution of the investigation, Scurry-Johnson said.
The Census Bureau has yet to begin door-to-door canvassing for the 2010 head count, but it has thousands of field workers doing smaller surveys on various demographic topics on behalf of federal agencies. Next year, the Census Bureau will dispatch up to 1.2 million temporary employees to locate hard-to-find residents.
The Census Bureau is overseen by the Commerce Department.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our co-worker," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with William Sparkman's son, other family and friends."
Locke called him "a shining example of the hardworking men and women employed by the Census Bureau."