Kentucky police and the FBI are investigating a horrifying find -- the body of a U.S. census worker found hanging from a tree with the word "fed" scrawled on his chest. And now investigators are looking into whether 51-year-old Bill Sparkman, left, was a victim of anti-government sentiment.
The body was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of Daniel Boone National Forest in rural Clay County, in the southeastern part of the state. Autopsy findings are pending, and the FBI will not give any details of the crime scene. But 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."
Sparkman had worked for the census bureau since 2003, conducting interviews a couple of times a month. He had yet to begin extensive door-to-door counting for the 2010 census. Friends say Sparkman worked for the census bureau to supplement his income as a substitute teacher.
"He was such an innocent person," co-worker Gilbert 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."
FBI spokesman David Beyer said it is not clear yet whether Sparkman was targeted because of his census work. Attacking a federal worker during or because of his job is a federal crime.
The Commerce Department, which oversees the census, has an obvious concern over this incident, because next year it will deploy 1.2 million temporary workers all over the U.S. to find hard-to-locate people. In a statement, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke called Sparkman:
...a shining example of the hardworking men and women employed by the Census Bureau. We are deeply saddened by the loss of our co-worker."
Sparkman's grieving mother, Henrie Sparkman, is waiting for answers on her son's death. "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."