Blog Post

Census Worker Murdered

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist In an ominous sign of the times, a Census worker was found hanged in a rural Kentucky county with the word “fed” scrawled across his chest. According to a report by the Associated Press (AP), Bill Sparkman, 51, was supplementing his income doing Census field work when he was found hanging in a remote spot in the Daniel Boone National Forest on Sept. 12. The word “feds” was scrawled across his chest, although the FBI is not saying what type of instrument was used to write the word on Sparkman’s chest. The Census Bureau has suspended door-to-door interviews in Clay County, where the incident took place, until the investigation is complete, an official said. FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is assisting state police and said agents are trying to determine if foul play was involved and whether it had anything to do with Sparkman's job as a Census worker. Lucindia Scurry-Johnson, assistant director of the Census Bureau's southern office in Charlotte, N.C., said law enforcement officers told the agency the matter is "an apparent homicide" but nothing else. The only thing they were told is that Sparkman's truck was found nearby the scene, and a computer he was using for work was inside. Sparkman had worked for the Census since 2003, conducting interviews in a five-county area in Kentucky a few times a month. The Census Bureau is overseen by the Commerce Department and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued a statement about the death, expressing his sorrow and calling Sparkman "a shining example of the hardworking men and women employed by the Census Bureau.”    Sparkman’s mother, Henrie Sparkman of Inverness, Fla., doesn’t know why anyone would want to kill her son. She told the AP that he was an Eagle scout who moved to Kentucky to direct the local Boy Scouts of America, and later became a substitute teacher in Laurel County, the county adjacent to where his body was found. Locals have their own ideas about what happened to Sparkman. Kelsee Brown, a waitress at Huddle House, a 24-hour chain restaurant in nearby Manchester, said  she thinks the government sometimes has the wrong priorities. "Sometimes I think the government should stick their nose out of people's business and stick their nose in their business at the same time. They care too much about the wrong things," she said. However, Roy Silver, a New York City native now living in Harlan County, Ky. And teaching sociology at a local community college, said he doesn't sense an outpouring of anti-government sentiment in the region such as what was exhibited in town hall meetings in other parts of the country this summer. "I don't think distrust of government is any more or less here than anywhere else in the country," Silver said. On the other hand, Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), a private organization that tracks violence toward employees who enforce environmental regulations, says violence against federal Land Management and Forest Service workers soared from 55 incidents in 1996 to 290 by 2006. "Even as illustrated in town hall meetings today, there is a distinct hostility in a large segment of the population toward people who work for their government," Ruch said. A full investigation of the incident is currently underway. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®