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Census Worker Bill Sparkman's Hanging Death Pushes Government to Increase Security

BIG CREEK, Ky. (CBS/AP) One of their own died under mysterious circumstances while making the rounds and collecting data for the U.S. Government.

Now, the manager of part-time census taker Bill Sparkman, who died under suspicious circumstances in rural Kentucky, said Sunday that other workers are requesting to visit houses in teams rather than alone.

Wayne Hatcher, the regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau's office in Charlotte, N.C., was one of two people who participated in a makeshift memorial near a spot in the Daniel Boone National Forest that Sparkman's body was found one month ago with the word "Fed" scrawled on his chest. He was tied to a tree with a rope around his neck.

Although an autopsy has concluded Sparkman died of asphyxiation and the coroner confirmed the word was written on him, likely in felt-tip pen, authorities are saying little else about his death, even whether it was a murder, suicide or accident.

Hatcher said census workers have heard little either, although several have been interviewed by police.

Pending the investigation, the census has halted door-to-door visits in Clay County, a rural community two hours south of Lexington.

(AP Photo/The Times-Tribune)
In this undated 2008 photo, Bill Sparkman speaks to a 7th grade class during a lesson about sound waves.

"We continue to just wait for more information on what really happened so we can know what to do in Clay County, whether to proceed with work or keep it suspended," Hatcher said.

Hatcher, who oversees five states including Kentucky, said he had only met Sparkman once a few years ago when he was in Charlotte for training. During brief remarks, Hatcher recalled him as a hard worker.

"All kinds of weather, all kinds of hours in the day, he was out there making a difference," Hatcher said. "The work he was doing was providing all that critical information so important to run our country. His memory lives on."

Bennie Smith, a Lexington entertainer and former data entry clerk for the Census in Indiana, had hoped to generate a crowd of people to honor Sparkman at his final resting place, but only Hatcher joined him.

The two made the 45-minute trip together from the Wal-Mart near Sparkman's home in London, Ky., to the forest in the southeastern part of the state. They left a vase of flowers near Sparkman's final resting place, and Smith played the saxophone and read a Bible verse.

(Lexington, affil. WKYT)
Photo: Clay County Sheriff Kevin Johnson said patrols have increased in the Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky, since the discovery of a census worker's body found hanging from a tree.

Smith said he organized the event in part to honor Sparkman but also as an effort to restore the region's image.

"I didn't like the negative connotations it was bringing to the area," he said. "I knew folks in general here are good, law-abiding citizens."

Sparkman had pending work in Clay County and four other Kentucky counties, Hatcher said, but it was unclear if he died while he was working. Police told census workers that the case for Sparkman's government computer was found, but not his computer


September 25, 2009 - Hanged Census Worker Bill Sparkman Was a "Naive" School Teacher
September 24, 2009 - Census Worker Hanged: Body Not Fit for Viewing Cops Tell Mother
September 24, 2009 - Census Worker Bill Sparkman Hanged in Clay County Kentucky with "Fed" Scrawled on Chest