A Disturbing Killing in Clay County, Kentucky

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."

Tags: Anti-Government Sentiment, Right-Wing Violence (all tags)

Comments

12 Comments

Re: A Disturbing Killing in Clay County, Kentucky

michelle bachmann:

if we look at american history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the census bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations, at the request of president roosevelt, and that's how the japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps. i'm not saying that's what the administration is planning to do. but i am saying that private, personal information that was given to the census bureau in the 1940s was used against americans to round them up.

bachmann, 1: census bureau, -1

by truth hurts 2009-09-23 04:58PM | 0 recs
I've been concerned

for some time that too many Republican elected officials are feeding into the paranoid fantasies of mentally unstable individuals. Bachmann is a frequent offender.

A leading Republican candidate for governor in Iowa has joked that Obama has been good for two industries: guns and ammunition. When an elderly man announced at one of Chuck Grassley's town-hall meetings that Obama was acting like "a little Hitler," adding, "I'd take a gun to Washington if enough of you would go with me," Grassley didn't denounce his sentiment. Instead, he said he didn't ascribe "ulterior motives" to what Obama is trying to accomplish, then gave a meandering answer about why people are right to be concerned about "the federal government taking everything over."

by desmoinesdem 2009-09-23 06:56PM | 0 recs
Re: A Disturbing Killing in Clay County, Kentucky
Did she really say 1942-47?
She missed soething there. We were already in the War in 1942 and Roosevelt died in 1945 (two years before '47).
She's not only a hate-monger, but she flunked History as well.
by spirowasright 2009-09-23 07:22PM | 0 recs
Well internment didn't start until 1942

but it ended on January 2, 1945, long before 1947, so she's wrong there.

Also, the whole freaking argument is wrong. The census bureau didn't collect info on Japanese Americans with the intent of putting them into camps, they USED census information from the 1940 census after the President decided on internment.

So I'm not really sure what she's saying here...is this one of those "if you don't tell the census bureau who you are, they won't come and get you" In this day and age, good luck hiding from the government, Census bureau or not.

by DTOzone 2009-09-23 07:42PM | 0 recs
Propaganda killings

This is a measure of exactly how far the people who crashed our markets and destroyed our country in the past administration will go - they are working under talking points memos that are going out to everyone that say to fight the census.

The whole concept behind the census is both simple, noble and honorable - and the idea that the GOP is a profound one to me.

What the GOP is saying now, in its death throes, is that the very concept of making an accurate count of the people in America is enough to destroy them.

This killing was politically motivated. It is a response to GOP far right talking points that have instilled a false sense of 'crisis' in the hard right electorate in a terri-shiavo like attempt to 'energize the base'.

by Trey Rentz 2009-09-23 06:20PM | 0 recs
Doesn't mean census workers should be lynched

Confidentiality of census records is only as good as Congress' respect for the Constitution. Unfortunately, that's a thin reed in times of peril.  But the inability of either party in Congress to stand up for the Bill of Rights is no reason to rationalize the murder census workers.

by jcullen 2009-09-23 06:27PM | 0 recs
Re: A Disturbing Killing in Clay County, Kentucky

This is a terrible story.  I certainly hope it's not what it sounds like.

by Steve M 2009-09-23 06:54PM | 0 recs
Drugs just as likely as politics

I wouldn't jump to conclusions

by JJE 2009-09-23 07:27PM | 0 recs
Re: A Disturbing Killing in Clay County, Kentucky

Before 9/11, there was Oklahoma City.

by bruh3 2009-09-23 07:36PM | 0 recs
No,

Before 9/11 was the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Oklahoma City wasn't Muslims, it was American right-wing extremists who were unhappy with the FBI's mishandling of both Ruby Ridge and Waco. Saying that Oklahoma City led to 9/11 is like saying that orange trees produce grapefruit. They're completely different perpetrators with completely different motives.

by policygeek 2009-09-24 05:47AM | 0 recs
Re: No,

The fact that it was a right wing terrorist attack was the point that I was making by pointing out that we concentrated on 9/11 like we do not have our own homegrown terrorists. Not sure how you did not get that from the way I wrote the statement.

by bruh3 2009-09-24 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: A Disturbing Killing in Clay County, Kentucky

I agree with the poster above.  We need to be careful, because it's just as likely this census worker stumbled on a meth lab as it is he was killed by someone who is hostile to census-taking.

by alhill 2009-09-24 09:51AM | 0 recs

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