Mystery Deepens: Census Worker Was Nude, Bound and Gagged

September 26, 2009

(ChattahBox)— What happened to part-time census worker Bill Sparkman? That is the question his friends, family and residents of the small Appalachian town of London, Kentucky are asking, after the gruesome discovery of his hanged body near a remote cemetery in the Daniel Boone National Forest on Sept. 12, with the disturbing word “fed” scrawled on the dead census worker’s chest.

Law enforcement officials have released scant information and still refuse to say whether Bill Sparkman’s death was the result of foul play, but told Census officials his death was “an apparent homicide.” Now, an eyewitness account from the Ohio man who discovered Sparkman’s dead body in a remote clearing in the forest, adds further mystery to Sparkman’s death. The man says Sparkman was nude, gagged and bound with duct tape.

Jerry Weaver of Fairfield, Ohio, was in the area for a family reunion when he and a group of relatives happened upon Sparkman’s dead body on Sept. 12, in the rugged terrain of the Daniel Boone National Forest, Clay County, in the Appalachian foothills of Southeastern Kentucky. The family group was there to search out old graves of family members in the nearby Hoskins Cemetery.

A festive family get together was soon stopped cold, as the group happened upon the body of Bill Sparkman hanged from a tree with a noose, gagged, with his hands and feet bound with duct tape. And in an eerie twist, duct tape covered Sparkman’s eyes, and was coiled around his neck, securing some sort of identification tag.

Sparkman’s truck was spotted nearby with his computer still inside.

“His tailgate was down.” “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,” Wilson told the Associated Press.

The word “fed” was scrawled across Sparkman’s chest, which authorities now say was made with a felt-tip marker. Clay County Coroner Jim Trosper acknowledged on Friday, that a felt-tip marker was used to scrawl, “fed” across the census worker’s chest, but offered no additional details.

When the story of Sparkman’s horrific death broke on a national level by an AP report on late Wednesday, Sept. 23, little was known, except that Sparkman was a federal census worker, and discovered in a remote area, hanged from a tree, with the word “fed” scrawled across his chest. These details alone set off speculation that his death was the result of anti-government sentiment.

Authorities have since said that Sparkman’s body was not entirely hanging from a tree, because his feet were in contact with the ground, according to David Beyer a spokesman with the F.B.I. Louisville, Kentucky field office. Beyer also confirmed that Sparkman died of asphyxiation.

F.B.I. authorities are also pushing back against reports that Sparkman’s death was due to his work as a federal census worker. Previous reporting “left the impression that [Sparkman] was found strung up in a tree because he was a federal employee,” “At this juncture that’s not accurate,” Beyer told Talking Points Memo.

The cryptic statements issued by authorities only add to the deepening mystery at this point. It’s been two weeks since Sparkman’s body was discovered and his body has still not been released to family members for burial, as it remains in the custody of the state coroner’s office.

Bill Sparkman’s elderly mother, Henrie Sparkman resides in Florida and was told by authorities that her son’s body was decomposed, and it would be better for her son to be cremated. She told the AP that she had her own theories of what happened to her son. “I have my own ideas, but I can’t say them out loud. Not at this point,” she said.

Sparkman left behind a son, Josh Sparkman, who is in his early 20s and lives in Cookville, Tennessee.

There has been some speculation that Bill Sparkman may have stumbled upon illegal activity and was killed to cover it up. The rural area is known for its meth lab operations and marijuana fields. Pot growers often grow marijuana on national forest land to avoid federal forfeiture statutes and have been known to booby-trap the fields, and even protect the drug plots with armed guards.

But there is no evidence linking Sparkman’s death to illegal meth labs or marijuana fields. Local law enforcement acknowledged that such illegal activity exists in remote areas of rural Kentucky, but have not found any sites in the area wher Sparkman’s body was found.

Clay County Sheriff Kevin Johnson said. “We’ve had complaints in the area, but not that particular location.”

Sparkman’s long-time friend and co-worker, Gilbert Acciardo, is perplexed at the details surrounding his friend’s death and wants some answers, as he grieves for the loss of a man he says “always had a smile on his face.”

Acciardo is a retired state trooper who ran an after-school program at a Kentucky high school, where Sparkman worked as a substitute teacher. Acciardo had previously warned Sparkman to be careful when conducing census work in rural areas.

“I said, you’re going into rural Kentucky, isolated areas. Be careful over there — people may not understand that you’re there to gather statistics.” Acciardo was not specifically referring to anti-government sentiment or illegal activities, but of the fact that Clay County was an isolated area with rural folk and having poor cell-phone reception.

Acciardo believes that Sparkman lost his life sometime on Thursday, Sept 10, because he didn’t show up for work that day when expected, at 3:30 PM. Acciardo contacted authorities about Sparkman’s disappearance on Friday.

Sparkman was a beloved teacher, where he worked at Johnson Elementary School and the local High School. The Eagle Scout moved to London, Kentucky from Florida in the early 1990s with his son Josh, to take a leadership position with the Boy Scouts of America.

Sparkman bravely battled non-Hodgkin lymphoma, while completing an online teaching degree with Western Governors University and working two jobs as a teacher’s assistant and for the census, while also raising his son, Josh.

Carol Williams, Sparkman’s course mentor recalls Sparkman’s devotion to education and his determination to complete his degree, despite undergoing chemotherapy treatments to fight his cancer.

Williams nominated him to speak at Western Governors University’s commencement, which he attended in Salt Lake City, Utah after driving cross-country through a snowstorm, because he was too ill from his cancer treatments to fly.

Meanwhile, Sparkman’s friends, family and co-workers want to know what happened to their friend. It’s unknown why Sparkman was in the remote area of Clay County where his body was found.

“He was always where he’s supposed to be when he was supposed to be,” Gilbert Accairdo said. “We have the same questions that everybody does, you know? What happened to Mr. Sparkman?”


9 Responses to “Mystery Deepens: Census Worker Was Nude, Bound and Gagged”

  1. NinaK on September 26th, 2009 2:08 pm

    In my opinion, it is very obvious someone with an attitude of hatred toward government killed this man. Why else would the killer write “FED” on his chest? Previous articles stated police did NOT know if this was a murder or a suicide; really? The man is gagged, feet, ankles, hands wrapped in duct tape, duct tape on his eyes, gagged, a rope around his neck, and police think it might be a suicide? This is definitely a murder derived from hatred!! Hope the police are still looking for a suspect as there is NO way this gentleman did this to himself! I am sorry for the pain and suffering you endures and may you rest in peace, Mr. Sparkman.

  2. James McDonald on September 27th, 2009 9:47 am

    I cannot possibly how any sane official of any state can think of this as a suscide.
    It baffles me that something like this can occur in a state with its civil reputation. It has to be drug related. Only a druggie would be this insane.

  3. JoJo on September 27th, 2009 1:42 pm

    I find it amusing that the writer would refer to the outing (visiting a graveyard) as a “festive” event.

    As for the rest, I have NO CLUE as to why law enforcement thinks the general public is stupid enough to believe it when they don’t know if it’s murder or suicide. I don’t think it’s an easy thing to do….duct taping your wrists and ankles and hanging yourself. I thought it was funny when a reporter asked if there was a CHAIR in the vicinity. Yeah, like people are going to pack a chair out there. A more practical way would be for him to use his truck.

    Someone posted that it’s most likely a druggie that did this. I think the guy got a bit too close to something illegal. Either a meth lab, pot farm or some large scale moonshine. People there are extremely clannish and do not like strangers (especially law enforcement) in their business.

  4. Leigh Williams, Austin, TX on September 27th, 2009 7:08 pm

    JoJo, perhaps you are not from the South. Family reunions in rural cemeteries are indeed festive The custom arose from annual “cemetery cleanings,” when all the families who have relatives buried in these small graveyards come with rakes, shovels, and flowers or plants to maintain and beautify the premises. The work is followed by what we call “dinner on the ground,” a potluck picnic. I myself attend two such events every year, though in both cases my family has participated in setting up perpetual care, so shovels and rakes are no longer necessary. Beautification now consists of making elaborate silk floral decorations. In our family, that’s my job, and I usually at least twenty of those every year for five different cemeteries. In two of those, I am the landscaper because we provide our own maintenance for these purely private family cemeteries. As you may infer, we approach an almost Chinese level of filial piety down here, and we find these times of remembrance both comforting and joyful.

    My Nebraska-born brother-in-law was very surprised by all this. He calls our cemetery reunions “partying with the dead people.” I like that name. It’s very accurate!

  5. jsknow on September 28th, 2009 3:13 pm

    If it had anything to do with marijuana we could stop things like this from happening… MAKE IT LEGAL and regulate it like alcohol. Put all the gangsters out of the marijuana business and collect the taxes that are funding the gangsters that traffic in marijuana.

  6. Dprsng on September 28th, 2009 10:42 pm

    Some people only embrace democracy when they are in power.

  7. “FED” « luna noctiluca on October 1st, 2009 12:17 pm

    […] to this article the date of death was believed to be the 10th of September. I ran my chart for the 12th which was […]

  8. Kentucky Census Worker Committed Suicide, Say Investigators | ChattahBox News Blog on November 25th, 2009 11:50 am

    […] bound and hanged body in an isolated area of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural Kentucky, drew national attention. The 51-year-old was found with the word “fed” scrawled across his chest with a felt-tip […]

  9. Chris Manley on January 4th, 2011 2:06 pm

    Everyone wants marijuana legal. The reason this man was killed is because the killer is tired of hiding from the government. Alcohol is ten times worse than marijuana. And our governments officials more than likely drink alcohol and thats why its legal to this day. If people must be killed to legalize marijuana than let the killings begin. I’ve been arrested for possession three times and there is more times to come. I will never stop smoking. NEVER. LEGALIZE MARIJUANA OR DIE FEDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Got something to say? **Please Note** - Comments may be edited for clarity or obscenity, and all comments are published at the discretion of - Comments are the opinions of the individuals leaving them, and not of or its partners. - Please do not spam or submit comments that use copyright materials, hearsay or are based on reports where the supposed fact or quote is not a matter of public knowledge are also not permitted.