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Bill Sparkman Found Naked, Gagged And Bound

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BIG CREEK, Ky. — 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.

The word "fed" was written in felt-tip pen on 51-year-old Bill Sparkman's chest, but authorities have released very few other details in the case, such as whether they think it was an accident, suicide or homicide.

Jerry Weaver of Fairfield, Ohio, told The Associated Press on Friday that he was certain from the gruesome scene that someone killed Sparkman.

"He was murdered," Weaver said. "There's no doubt."

Weaver said he was in the rural Kentucky county 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.

"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."

Authorities have refused to say if Sparkman was at work going to door-to-door for census surveys before he died.

Both of the people briefed on the investigation confirmed 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, and could read that it said "fed."

Authorities said Thursday that a preliminary cause of death was asphyxiation, pending a full medical examination. Even the details behind that were murky. 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.

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.

"It took me three or four good nights to sleep. My 20-year-old daughter ended up sleeping in the floor in our bedroom." he said.

Clay County Sheriff Kevin Johnson declined to comment on the investigation because the department is only playing a supporting role but 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.

State Trooper Don Trosper said it was clear this wasn't a natural death but said all other possibilities were being considered.

"This case has many facets," he said. "To investigate cases, you have to rule out different scenarios. We are not able to rule out many scenarios at this time, and that's what makes this a difficult case."

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 Sparkman's death.

"Now they're taking their meth lab operations into the rural, secluded areas," the sheriff said. "We've had complaints in the area, but not that particular location."

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Associated Press Writer Devlin Barrett in Washington contributed to this report. Alford reported from Frankfort.

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