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Census Worker's Body Returned to Family

Authorities have released the body of a part-time census worker but were still providing little information about the death of Bill Sparkman nearly a month after the substitute teacher was found in a remote Appalachian forest with a rope around his neck and the word "Fed" scrawled on his chest.

Sparkman's son, Josh Sparkman, told The Associated Press Tuesday that investigators released the body on Monday to the Cremation Society of Kentucky. His father had wanted his body either donated to science or cremated, Josh Sparkman said, and authorities had advised him the body be cremated and not viewed by the family due to its condition.

A family visiting a Clay County cemetery found Bill Sparkman dead on Sept. 12 with a rope around his neck and his hands and feet duct-taped. The coroner confirmed the word "fed" was written on his chest, apparently in felt-tip pen.

The state medical examiner's office has established the cause of death as asphyxiation but has not determined whether it was a homicide, accident or suicide.

Mike Wilder, executive director of the State Medical Examiner's Office, said the investigation continues, with "bits and pieces of information" that are still coming to light.

There were "circumstances" that made the Sparkman case particularly difficult to resolve, but Wilder declined to elaborate.

"The cause of death was pretty well determined. The manner of death is still what is under investigation," Wilder said.

Josh Sparkman said police had released his father's pickup truck, which was found at the scene, and he is now driving it. Although he says police have told him nothing, he remains certain the death was murder.

He said many things, including a census laptop and personal items like his grandfather's wedding ring, were missing from the pickup truck and were not on a list of potential evidence that investigators kept. State police Capt. Lisa Rudzinski confirmed the laptop was not found in the truck but declined to comment on the other items.

"They ransacked that truck," Josh Sparkman said. "That's more evidence this is not an accident or suicide. This is a homicide."

Sparkman said he was working on organizing a memorial service for his father but hadn't scheduled it because he was broke and hasn't found a funeral home to host the service. He said he would like to do it as soon as possible but would need to give out-of-town family members several days to make arrangements to attend.