- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009

MANCHESTER, Ky. | 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 Bureau 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 Mr. Beyer.

Attacking a federal worker during or because of his federal job is a federal crime.

Mr. 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.”

Gilbert Acciardo, a retired Kentucky state trooper who directs an after-school program at the elementary school where Mr. Sparkman was a frequent substitute teacher, said he had warned Mr. Sparkman to be careful when he did his census work.

“I told him on more than one occasion, based on my years in the state police, ‘Mr. Sparkman, when you go into those counties, be careful because people are going to perceive you different than they do elsewhere,’ ” Mr. Acciardo said.

“Even though he was with the Census Bureau, sometimes people can view someone with any government agency as ‘the government.’ I just was afraid that he might meet the wrong character along the way up there,” Mr. Acciardo said.

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 Mr. 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.

Mr. Sparkman had 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.

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