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.
Jerry Weaver of Fairfield, Ohio, told The Associated Press on Friday that he was among a group of relatives who discovered the body of 51-year-old Bill Sparkman on Sept. 12.
"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.
"And they even had duct tape around his neck. 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."
Weaver said he couldn't tell if the tag was a Census Bureau I.D. He said he didn't get close enough to read it.
State police Capt. Lisa Rudzinski would not confirm Weaver's description of the crime scene. 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.
Both of the people briefed on the investigation said, for instance, that a Census identification badge, which Census workers are instructed to wear when they go on door to door work, was found taped to his head and shoulder area.
Authorities have released very few details on the death. Coroner Jim Trosper has said the word "fed" was written on Sparkman's chest with what was likely a felt-tip pen. Weaver said he was not close enough to see anything written on the body's chest.
State police had announced the cause of death was asphyxiation, then clarified Friday that was a preliminary determination pending a full medical examination of the body. Rudzinsky said investigators hadn't yet determined whether the death was a homicide, suicide or accidental.
Weaver, who works for a family topsoil business in Fairfield, said he was in town for a family reunion and was visiting family gravesites at the cemetery when he and relatives came across the body.
The scene left Weaver without a doubt how Sparkman died.
"He was murdered," he said. "There's no doubt."
Weaver said the body was about 50 years 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.
Trooper 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."