The part-time census worker found hanging from a tree in a rural Kentucky cemetery was naked, his hands and feet bound with duct tape, a witness told the Associated Press on Friday.
Jerry Weaver of Fairfield, Ohio, said Bill Sparkman, 51, was gagged and had duct tape over his eyes and neck. Something resembling an identification tag was taped to his neck, he reported.
Weaver said he was in the area for a family reunion when he and other relatives came upon Sparkman's body on Sept. 12 in Daniel Boone National Forest.
Sparkman's truck was found nearby with his computer still inside.
"His tailgate was down," Weaver told the AP. "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."
Sparkman's body was found with the word "Fed" scrawled in his chest.
The federal government has suspended door-to-door interviews the area.
Census authorities maintain they have "no information" that his death was related to his job.
The FBI is investigating the possibility that Sparkman was the victim of anti-government sentiment.
Investigators are saying little about the crime, but some people wonder if his death in the remote part of southeastern Kentucky known for its meth labs and hidden marijuana fields had less to do with his job than simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Specific details of the investigation are not being released at this time because it is an ongoing investigation," Kentucky State Patrol Trooper Don Trosper said.
U.S. Census Bureau spokesman Burt Reist said in a statement today, "The extent of information we have about the investigation is that the FBI is currently gathering evidence to determine whether this death was the result of foul play."
Sparkman, his mother said, had moved to Kentucky to take a leadership position with the Boy Scouts of America. He, himself, was an Eagle Scout.
A single father and non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, Sparkman was working two jobs -- as a census worker and a substitute teacher -- while he waited for a permanent teaching position to open up.
Carol Williams was Sparkman's course mentor in the teacher education program at Western Governors University, where he took online classes and graduated in 2008.
"He was going to be a middle school mathematics teacher," she said. "From what I recall, he was an instruction aide, what we call a paraprofessional. He did a lot of things that teachers do."
Williams said he was so devoted to education and such a hard worker that she nominated him to speak at commencement, which he attended in Salt Lake City after driving cross-country.
In a 2008 profile in The Times Tribune, which covers southeastern Kentucky, Sparkman talked about juggling school, work, chemotherapy treatments and being a single father to a teenage son.
"I know a lot of people were out there praying for me, and I have no doubt that it was a mixture of God's will, the doctors, and my friends and family that got me through this," he told the newspaper.
The teachers and students at Johnson Elementary School were stunned by the news and are now grieving for their friend.