By DEVLIN BARRETT and JEFFREY McMURRAY (AP) – 20 minutes ago
WASHINGTON — The FBI is investigating the hanging death of a U.S. Census worker near a Kentucky cemetery, and a law enforcement official told The Associated Press the word ‘fed” was scrawled on the dead man’s chest.
The body of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and occasional teacher, 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.
Investigators are still trying to determine whether the death was a killing or a suicide, and if a killing, whether the motive was related to his government job or to anti-government sentiment.
Investigators have said little about the case. The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, said Wednesday the man was found hanging from a tree and the word “fed” was written on the dead man’s chest. The official did not say what type of instrument was used to write the word.
FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is helping state police with the case.
“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.
Beyer declined to confirm or discuss any details about the crime scene.
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 U.S. 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.”
McMurray reported from Lexington, Ky.