BIG CREEK, Ky. (AP) | A part-time census worker found hanging in a rural Kentucky cemetery was naked, gagged and had his hands and feet bound with duct tape, said an Ohio man who discovered the body two weeks ago.
Authorities have also said the word “fed” was scrawled with a felt-tip pen across 51-year-old Bill Sparkman’s chest, but they have released very few details about the case and said investigators have not determined whether it was a homicide. But a man who found the body said the scene looked like a homicide to him.
Federal, state and local authorities have refused to say whether Mr. Sparkman was at work going door-to-door for census surveys in the time before his death, but his U.S. Census Bureau identification tag was found taped to his body.
Jerry Weaver of Fairfield, Ohio, told the Associated Press on Friday that he was among a group of relatives who made the gruesome discovery on Sept. 12.
“The only thing he had on was a pair of socks,” Mr. Weaver said. “And they had duct-taped his hands, his wrists. He had duct tape over his eyes, and they gagged him with a red rag or something.”
“And they even had duct tape around his neck. And they had like his identification tag on his neck. They had it duct-taped to the side of his neck, on the right side, almost on his right shoulder.”
Two people briefed on the investigation said various details of Mr. Weaver’s account matched the details of the crime scene, though both people said they were not informed who found the body. The two spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.
Mr. Weaver said he couldn’t tell whether the tag was a Census Bureau ID because he didn’t get close enough to read it. But both of the people briefed on the investigation confirmed Mr. Sparkman’s Census Bureau ID was found taped to his head and shoulder area.
While authorities confirmed for the first time Thursday that asphyxiation was the cause of death, 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.
Mr. Weaver said he was in town for a family reunion and was visiting family grave sites at the cemetery when he and family members including his wife and daughter came across the body.
The scene left Mr. Weaver without a doubt over how Mr. Sparkman died.
“He was murdered,” he said. “There’s no doubt.”
Mr. Weaver said the body was about 50 yards from a 2003 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck. He said Mr. Sparkman’s clothes were in the bed of the truck.
The truck’s “tailgate was down,” Mr. Weaver said. “I thought he could have been killed somewhere else and brought there and hanged up for display, or they actually could have killed him right there. It was a bad, bad scene.”
Clay County Sheriff Kevin Johnson declined to comment on the investigation because the department is only playing a supporting role, but he said patrols have increased in the Daniel Boone National Forest since the body was found.
The Census Bureau has suspended door-to-door interviews in the rural county pending the investigation.
Although anti-government sentiment was one possibility in the death, 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 Mr. Sparkman’s death.