Hanged Census Worker Staged Suicide in Apparent Insurance Scam

Bill Sparkman was bound and hanging from a tree with "Fed" written on his chest.

ByABC News
November 24, 2009, 3:19 PM

Nov. 24, 2009 — -- The part-time census worker found naked, bound and hanging from a tree had staged his suicide to make it appear like murder, authorities said today.

When the body of Bill Sparkman, 51, was found near a rural Kentucky cemetery in September, he was gagged, had duct tape over his eyes and neck, his hands and feet were bound with tape, and he had "fed" scrawled on his chest.

Authorities initially investigated whether Sparkman had been a victim of anti-government sentiment, but today they said in a statement that he died during an "intentional, self-inflicted act that was staged to appear as a homicide."

Two life insurance plans had also been taken out by Sparkman, a single father, right before the time of his death, but payment for suicide was precluded, said police.

If Sparkman had been killed on the job, his family also would have been be eligible for up to $10,000 in death gratuity payments from the government, according to the Associated Press. He was not eligible for a separate life insurance policy through the government because his census work was intermittent, Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner said in September.

According to the Kentucky State Police, DNA evidence shows that Sparkman was the only person who "handled the key pieces of evidence" and there was no evidence of involvement by other individuals.

Kentucky State Police Capt. Lisa Rudzinski said an analysis found that "fed" was written "from the bottom up." He was touching the ground, and to survive "all Mr. Sparkman had to do at any time was stand up," she said.

Sparkman had also "discussed ending his own life," according to the police statement, and had often talked about the "perceived negative attitudes toward federal entities" by members of the community.

Sparkman's mother, Henrie Sparkman of Inverness, Fla., bristled at the conclusion. "I disagree!" she wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Police said the official cause of death was asphyxiation and strangulation.