My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

UPDATE: MyTwoCensus Investigation Into The Murder Of Census Employee Bill Sparkman

The Associated Press has obtained some additional details on this case that are featured below. However, many questions still need to be answered in this case. Though this area of rural Kentucky is rife with meth-addicts and a rampant drug culture, was Sparkman actually the victim of an anti-government crusader? Was this act committed by a single person or a group of individuals?

Again, where were Sparkman’s superiors? Why  did a family visiting a cemetery first encounter this body rather than Sparkman’s fellow Census Bureau employees? What data was left behind in Sparkman’s  computer?

H/t to Roger Alford and Jeffrey McMurray of the AP for the following:

Family cemetery visit led to hanged census worker

BIG CREEK, Ky. — A family’s visit to a rural Kentucky cemetery led to the shocking discovery of a part-time census worker’s naked body hanging from a tree with the word “fed” written on his chest.

Jerry Weaver of Fairfield, Ohio, told The Associated Press the man had been gagged and his hands and feet were bound with duct tape.

Weaver said Friday he was certain from the gruesome scene that 51-year-old Bill Sparkman was killed deliberately.

“He was murdered,” Weaver said. “There’s no doubt.”

Weaver said he was in rural Clay County, Ky., for a family reunion and was visiting some family graves at the cemetery on Sept. 12 along with his wife and daughter when they saw the body.

“The only thing he had on was a pair of socks,” 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.”

Two people briefed on the investigation said various details of 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 condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

Authorities have said a preliminary cause of death was asphyxiation, pending a full medical examination. According to a Kentucky State Police statement, the body was hanging from a tree with a rope around the neck, yet it was in contact with the ground.

“And they even had duct tape around his neck,” Weaver said. “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.”

Both of the people briefed on the investigation confirmed that Sparkman’s Census Bureau ID was found taped to his head and shoulder area. Weaver said he couldn’t tell if the tag was a Census ID because he didn’t get close enough to read it. He could see writing on Sparkman’s chest, but could not read that it said “fed.”

Authorities have said the word was scrawled with a felt-tip pen.

Weaver, who works for a family topsoil business in Fairfield, said the body was about 50 yards from a 2003 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck. He said Sparkman’s clothes were in the bed of the truck.

“His tailgate was down,” 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.

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7 Responses to “UPDATE: MyTwoCensus Investigation Into The Murder Of Census Employee Bill Sparkman”

  1. MediaTrainer00 Says:

    First of all my prayers and thoughts go out to Sparkman’s family, friends and co-workers as they deal with this tragedy.

    I find it amazing that a person/group like yours, whose sole purpose in life to to dig up dirt on an organization that prides itself on openness and transparency,has the audacity to jump the gun as “investigators” asking only questions that fit their agenda.

    Where is your caring about the loss of life? Nah! You’re more interested in What data was left behind in Sparkman’s {encrypted, password-protected, useful to others only as a paperweight}computer?

    Are you aware of every move {work or personal-related} your employees, volunteers or contributors makes eavry hour/day? I think not.? Why did a family visiting a cemetery first encounter this body rather than Sparkman’s fellow Census Bureau employees? at risk of sounding uncaring (not my intent) census workers are interested in interviewing/contacting the living. Perhaps if the supervisor was blessed with ESP, the supervisor would have thought of looking in a cemetery.

    You call yourselves watchdogs … I think the correct term is bloodhounds.

  2. CL Says:

    Since this was a rural area, it is very likely that Mr. Sparkman was the only Field Representative working in that area. There would be no other Census Bureau employees there.

    His laptop would have his list of assigned households to interview and notes about his contacts, but that really is an unimportant point since the Census Bureau cannot share that information with law enforcement due to the requirements of Title 13 U. S. C.

  3. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    Media Trainer: Our prayers and thoughts go out to Sparkman’s family a well. You very much misinterpreted what was previously written on this site. The reason for suggesting that Sparkman’s data be investigated is to determine his whereabouts on the day that he was murdered, which could hopefully assist authorities in this investigation. At no point did this site suggest that the private data in Sparkman’s computers should not be released. On the contrary, this is an example of when the authorities SHOULD look through Sparkman’s data to find out as much information as possible for the purposes of their investigation.

    And you are wrong when discussing supervisors. Put quite simply, a good supervisor should have his/her employees check in and out at the end of every day. Even if this process were done by telephone (given that this incident took place in a rural area), it could have impacted what happened in this situation.

    On a personal note, I take umbrage at being called a bloodhound, as I have written time and time again about ways that the Census Bureau and its private contractors and subcontractors can make their activities more safe for employees. Browse through the MyTwoCensus archives and you will see that this has been unequivocally true since this site was founded.

    -Stephen Robert Morse

  4. TR Says:

    Stephen, perhaps you should do some research and familiarize yourself with the LAWS governing the census since you are the self-proclaimed “watchdog” of the census.

    “On the contrary, this is an example of when the authorities SHOULD look through Sparkman’s data to find out as much information as possible for the purposes of their investigation.”

    Title 13, Section 9 USC says that no Department of Commerce (and therefore Census Bureau) employee may “permit anyone other than the sworn officers and employees of the Department or bureau or agency thereof to examine the individual reports.”

    And this is the Census “Sworn Affidavit of Nondisclosure”:

    “I will not disclose any information contained in the schedules, lists, or statements obtained for or prepared by the Bureau of the Census to any person or persons either during or after employment. I know such disclosure through publication, or any other communication method, could result in a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years.”

    This means the Census Bureau cannot turn over the data on his laptop to “the authorities” without facing legal consequences, and I’m not even sure if any evidence obtaining from Census Bureau sources would be admissible in court (IANAL).

  5. CL Says:

    Stephen,

    Census Bureau Field Representatives are assigned to a Senior Field Representative. That Senior Field Representative usually does maintain regular contact with their employees, but they often only requires contact on a weekly basis.

    Most Field Representatives intersperse their work at irregular intervals throughout their days. They do not check in or check out. They are expected to connect to the Census Bureau servers with their laptops on a nightly basis, though most Senior Field Representatives and Survey Supervisors don’t consider it a big problem if a Field Representative misses one or two nights.

    Depending on the surveys Mr. Sparkman worked and how much work he was assigned, it could be that neither his Senior Field Representative nor his Survey Supervisor(s) in Charlotte suspected anything was wrong.

  6. CL Says:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2009-09-27-census_N.htm

    This article confirms that Mr. Sparkman was working on the American Community Survey. Since Field Representatives have until the end of the month to complete their work each month on that survey, a couple of missed days in the early part of the month may not have seemed unusual.

  7. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    Thanks CL – Good observations!