LEXINGTON, Ky. —A U.S. Census worker found dead in a secluded Kentucky cemetery killed himself but tried to make the death look like a homicide, authorities have concluded.
Bill Sparkman, 51, of London, Ky., might have tried to cover the manner of his death to preserve payments under life insurance policies that he had taken out. The policies wouldn't pay off if Sparkman committed suicide, state police Capt. Lisa Rudzinski said.
"We believe it was an intentional act on his part to take his own life," said Rudzinski, who helped lead the investigation.
Sparkman's nude body was found Sept. 12 by people visiting the cemetery in Clay County, Ky. There was a rope around his neck tied to a tree, and he had what appeared to be the word "fed" written on his chest in black marker.
His census identification card was taped to his head.
The bizarre details of the death caused a firestorm of media coverage and widespread speculation on the Internet, including that someone angry at the federal government attacked Sparkman as he went door to door, gathering census information.
There has been some anti-census sentiment in the country this year, and Sparkman apparently tried to capitalize on that with his ruse.
If there had been no writing on his chest and his identification hadn't been taped to him, police could have concluded more quickly that Sparkman's death was a suicide, Rudzinski said.
Instead, it took considerably more investigation to rule out homicide. Police even analyzed the ink on Sparkman's chest to see how the letters were applied, in order to determine whether it was more likely that someone else wrote on him or he wrote on himself.
Ultimately, there was no evidence to point to murder, she said.