Friday, September 25, 2009

The Associated Press: Witness: Census worker's hanging body naked, bound



BIG CREEK, Ky. — One of the witnesses who found a part-time census worker's body hanging in a Kentucky cemetery says the man was naked and his hands and feet were bound with duct tape.

Jerry Weaver of Fairfield, Ohio, told The Associated Press on Friday that he was among a group of relatives who discovered the body of Bill Sparkman on Sept. 12.

Sparkman was a substitute teacher who worked part-time for the census. Law enforcement officials have released very few details on his death, only saying he died from asphyxiation.

Weaver says the man also was gagged and had duct tape over his eyes and neck. He says something that looked like an identification tag was taped to the side of his neck.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BIG CREEK, Ky. (AP) — Authorities said a U.S. Census worker died by asphyxiation but were releasing few other details about the mysterious case nearly two weeks after Bill Sparkman's body — with the word "fed" scrawled on the chest — was found hanging from a tree near a family cemetery secluded by Appalachian forest.

The word appeared to have been written with a felt-tip pen, Clay County Coroner Jim Trosper said Friday. He did not elaborate.

The substitute teacher, 51, was discovered Sept. 12 in a remote patch of Daniel Boone National Forest in Clay County where he was working part-time for the government. Still, law enforcement officials weren't saying Thursday whether he was working at the time of his death or whether they believed it had anything to do with his job. Authorities have so far been unable to determine if it was an accidental death, homicide, or suicide.

Mary Hibbard, a teacher in Manchester, recalled Sparkman visiting her over the summer to ask typical Census questions, such as the size of her house and the average monthly utility bills. After she answered, she turned the questioning on him — quizzing him about his faith and learning he had a strong belief in God.

She said she was shocked when she saw his picture on the news.

"I think the negative publicity of it is a stigma on our county," she said. "It makes people think less of us, even though this is an isolated incident. When it happens here, it seems like it's emphasized."

Authorities for the first time Thursday said the preliminary cause of death was asphyxiation, but even the details behind that were murky. According to a Kentucky State Police statement, the body was hanging from a tree with a noose around the neck, yet it was in contact with the ground.

The word "fed" had been scrawled on his chest, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the case.

There was no visual evidence of any crime — or even any police investigation — at the Hoskins family cemetery, which includes dozens of tombstones, many bearing the Hoskins name. It sits on a steep hill less than 200 yards from the narrow road that cuts through the forest.

At the entrance to the path leading there were two white rubber gloves, and there was other litter on the ground, including discarded soda cans and a children's toy.

Lucy Wagers, who owns a grocery store in the area, said her husband delivers mail around the cemetery, and she often goes with him. Never had she seen any strange activity there, nor noticed any police traffic, even after the body was found.

"Who would have done it like that around here?" she said. "I've been here 32 years and never had nobody bother me."

Although anti-government sentiment was one possibility, some in law enforcement also cited the prevalence of drug activity in the area — including meth labs and marijuana fields — although they had no reason to believe there was a link to Sparkman's death.


The Associated Press: Witness: Census worker's hanging body naked, bound
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