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.

Posts Tagged ‘murdered’

MyTwoCensus Investigation and Editorial: Skeptical Over Sparkman Outcome Until More Details Are Provided

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Since yesterday’s revelation by the Kentucky State Police, FBI, U.S. Forest Service,State Medical Examiner’s Office and the Clay County Coroner’s Office, that the death of  Census Bureau employee William E. Sparkman, Jr., “based upon evidence and witness testimony” was “an intentional, self-inflicted act that was staged to appear as a homicide,” many eyebrows have been raised.

Now, insurance fraud is definitely a common occurrence, but to take one’s own life for a small payout is extreme, and cursory searches on Google reveal that this case provides many of the top hits when searching for a suicide that was staged to look like a murder. Thus, this is a very rare occurrance, so these conclusions should be further examined before the door on this case is shut forever.

According to the Associated Press, “Sparkman ‘told a credible witness that he planned to commit suicide and provided details on how and when.’

Authorities wouldn’t say who Sparkman told of his plan, but said Sparkman talked about it a week before his suicide and the person did not take him seriously. He told the person he believed his lymphoma, which he had previously been treated for, had recurred, police said.

Sparkman also had recently taken out two accidental life insurance policies totaling $600,000 that would not pay out for suicide, authorities said. One policy was taken out in late 2008; the other in May.

On November 12, The Huffington Post reported the following:

“If it’s deemed suicide, there’s no point in even looking at insurance,” Josh Sparkman said. “There’s no such thing as suicide insurance. The money is not the concern. I just want to know what happened to my dad.”

Sparkman’s naked body was found Sept. 12 near a family cemetery in a heavily wooded area of southeastern Kentucky. One of the witnesses who found the body said the 51-year-old was bound with duct tape, gagged and had an identification badge taped to his neck. Authorities have confirmed “Fed” was written on his chest likely in pen.

Josh Sparkman, 20, who is unemployed, said he’s convinced his father could not have committed suicide, even though law enforcement officials previously told the AP on condition of anonymity that they are looking closely at that possibility and increasingly doubt he was killed because of his government job.

Yet after yesterday’s announcement, Sparkman’s own mother wrote to the Associated Press, referring to the swift conclusion of the case, “I disagree!”

With so many people worried about a lack of participation in the 2010 Census, federal and state agencies had every reason to end this case quickly and quietly. Until the hard evidence about how Sparkman masterminded his own death is provided, this conclusion should be taken as theory, not a fact. While it is interesting to hear basic details in the AP report (“On Tuesday, authorities for the first time released key details such as Sparkman’s wrists being bound so loosely that he could have done the taping himself. Kentucky State Police Capt. Lisa Rudzinski said an analysis found that the “fed” on his chest was written “from the bottom up.” He was touching the ground almost to his knees, and to survive “all Mr. Sparkman had to do at any time was stand up,” she said.), more evidence that goes beyond circumstantial evidence must be provided to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that no other parties were involved in this heinous act.

An autopsy report on Sparkman’s body is still pending, so we await the result of that investigation, as well as a more comprehensive report from the federal and state agencies responsible for overseeing this case.

Kentucky State Police Report on Bill Sparkman’s Death

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

The following is the Kentucky State Police Report on Census Bureau employee Bill Sparkman’s death:

The Kentucky State Police Post 11 in London, with the assistance of the FBI, the U.S. Forest Service, the State Medical Examiner’s Office and the Clay County Coroner’s Office, has concluded the investigation into the death of William E. Sparkman, Jr. The investigation, based upon evidence and witness testimony, has concluded that Mr. Sparkman died during an intentional, self-inflicted act that was staged to appear as a homicide.

While all the details of the investigation will not be released at this time, the unusual level of attention and speculation attributed to Mr. Sparkman’s death necessitates this release of information. The investigation indicates that Mr. Sparkman died of asphyxiation/strangulation at the same location where he was discovered in Clay County, Ky. Despite the fact that Mr. Sparkman was found hands, feet and mouth bound with duct tape, rope around his neck and the word “FED” written on his chest, analysis of the evidence determined Mr. Sparkman’s death was self-inflicted.

A thorough examination of evidence from the scene, to include DNA testing, as well as examination of his vehicle and his residence resulted in the determination that Mr. Sparkman, alone, handled the key pieces of evidence with no indications of any other persons involved. Witness statements, which are deemed credible, indicate Mr. Sparkman discussed ending his own life and these discussions matched details discovered during the course of the investigation.

It was learned that Mr. Sparkman had discussed recent federal investigations and the perceived negative attitudes toward federal entities by some residents of Clay County. It was also discovered during the investigation that Mr. Sparkman had recently secured two life insurance policies for which payment for suicide was precluded.

All tips and leads, including those from the public, were thoroughly investigated but were found to be inconsistent with any known facts or evidence. It is the conclusion of the Kentucky State Police, the FBI, the U.S. Forest Service, the State Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Clay County Coroner’s Office that Mr. Sparkman died in an intentional, self-inflicted act that was staged to appear as a homicide.

Breaking News: Police: Kentucky census worker committed suicide, staged scene

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

This just in from CNN…(MyTwoCensus.com will publish an editorial about this finding tomorrow morning):

(CNN) — A Kentucky census worker who was found dead in September committed suicide and staged the scene to look like a homicide, authorities said Tuesday.

The body of William E. Sparkman Jr., 51, was found September 12 near a cemetery in southeastern Kentucky’s Clay County.

He had a rope around his neck that was tied to a tree, but his body was touching the ground, authorities said. He had “Fed” written on his chest in black ink, Kentucky State Police said Tuesday, but forensic analysis showed he wrote it himself with a felt pen.

“Analysis of the evidence determined Mr. Sparkman’s death was self-inflicted,” police said in a statement.

“A thorough examination of evidence from the scene, to include DNA testing, as well as examination of his vehicle and his residence resulted in the determination that Mr. Sparkman, alone, handled the key pieces of evidence with no indications of any other persons involved.”

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

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

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.

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Census Worker Murdered!

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Hat tips to the many readers who alerted us to the following story (Please note that we are independently investigating this incident!):

(09-23) 20:45 PDT Manchester, Ky. (AP) –

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.

Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher, was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky. 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 “fed” on his chest.

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.

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 Beyer.

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

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. 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 Sparkman was a frequent substitute teacher, said he had warned 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,’” 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,” Acciardo said.

Acciardo said he became suspicious when Sparkman didn’t show up for work at the after-school program for two days and went to police. Authorities immediately initiated an investigation, he said.

“He was such an innocent person,” Acciardo said. “I hate to say that he was naive, but he saw the world as all good, and there’s a lot of bad in the world.”

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.

Manchester, the main hub of Clay County, is an exit off the highway, with a Walmart, a few hotels, chain restaurants and a couple gas stations. The drive away from town and toward the area Sparkman’s body was found is decidely darker through the forest with no streetlights on windy roads, up and down steep hills.

Kelsee Brown, a waitress at Huddle House, a 24-hour chain restaurant, when asked about the hanging, said she thinks the government sometimes has the wrong priorities.

“Sometimes I think the government should stick their nose out of people’s business and stick their nose in their business at the same time. They care too much about the wrong things,” she said.

The Census Bureau has yet to begin door-to-door canvassing for the 2010 head count, but it has thousands of field workers doing smaller surveys on various demographic topics on behalf of federal agencies. Next year, the Census Bureau will dispatch up to 1.2 million temporary employees to locate hard-to-find residents.

The 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.”

Appalachia scholar Roy Silver, a New York City native now living in Harlan County, Ky., said he doesn’t sense an outpouring of anti-government sentiment in the region as has been exhibited in town hall meetings in other parts of the country.

“I don’t think distrust of government is any more or less here than anywhere else in the country,” said Silver, a sociology professor at Southeast Community College.

The most deadly attack on federal workers came in 1995 when the federal building in Oklahoma City was devastated by a truck bomb, killing 168 and injuring more than 680. Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for the bombing, carried literature by modern, ultra-right-wing anti-government authors.

A private group called PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, tracks violence against employees who enforce environmental regulations, but the group’s executive director, Jeff Ruch, said it’s hard to know about all of the cases because some agencies don’t share data on instances of violence against employees.

From 1996 to 2006, according to the group’s most recent data, violent incidents against federal Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service workers soared from 55 to 290.

Ruch said that after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, “we kept getting reports from employees that attacks and intimidation against federal employees had not diminished, and that’s why we’ve been tracking them.”

“Even as illustrated in town hall meetings today, there is a distinct hostility in a large segment of the population toward people who work for their government,” Ruch said.

___

Barrett reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Roger Alford in Frankfort, Ky., Hope Yen in Washington and Dylan T. Lovan in Louisville contributed to this report.