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The elder Sparkman was found dead in September in a rural part of Kentucky, hanging from a tree with a rope around his neck and the word "Fed" written on his chest, his hands and feet bound and duct tape over his mouth.
Police said today that Sparkman's wrists were bound in front of him, in a position from which he could easily have wriggled free.
They also said in a press release (see Late Update below) that, accordiing to witnesses, Sparkman had talked about ending his life, "and these discussions matched details discovered during the course of the investigation." And that he "had discussed recent federal investigations and the perceived negative attitudes toward federal entities by some residents of Clay County."
In other words, they suggest, Sparkman deliberately played on rural Kentucky's reputation as a hotbed of anti-government sentiment to create the impression that he had been murdered because of his job.
Investigators had said earlier this month that they were eyeing the insurance scam scenario. That prompted right-wing pundits like Michelle Malkin to slam those who had speculated that Sparkman had been killed in an act of anti-government sentiment.
Late Update: Here's the full statement from the Kentucky state police:
(LONDON, KY) - The Kentucky State Police Post 11 in London, with the assistance of the FBI, the U.S. Forest Service, the State Medical Examiner's Office and the Clay County Coroner's Office, has concluded the investigation into the death of William E. Sparkman, Jr.
The investigation, based upon evidence and witness testimony, has concluded that Mr. Sparkman died during an intentional, self-inflicted act that was staged to appear as a homicide. While all the details of the investigation will not be released at this time, the unusual level of attention and speculation attributed to Mr. Sparkman's death necessitates this release of information.
The investigation indicates that Mr. Sparkman died of asphyxiation/strangulation at the same location where he was discovered in Clay County, Ky.
Despite the fact that Mr. Sparkman was found hands, feet and mouth bound with duct tape, rope around his neck and the word "FED" written on his chest, analysis of the evidence determined Mr. Sparkman's death was self-inflicted. A thorough examination of evidence from the scene, to include DNA testing, as well as examination of his vehicle and his residence resulted in the determination that Mr. Sparkman, alone, handled the key pieces of evidence with no indications of any other persons involved.
Witness statements, which are deemed credible, indicate Mr. Sparkman discussed ending his own life and these discussions matched details discovered during the course of the investigation. It was learned that Mr. Sparkman had discussed recent federal investigations and the perceived negative attitudes toward federal entities by some residents of Clay County. It was also discovered during the investigation that Mr. Sparkman had recently secured two life insurance policies for which payment for suicide was precluded.
All tips and leads, including those from the public, were thoroughly investigated but were found to be inconsistent with any known facts or evidence.
It is the conclusion of the Kentucky State Police, the FBI, the U.S. Forest Service, the State Medical Examiner's Office, and the Clay County Coroner's Office that Mr. Sparkman died in an intentional, self-inflicted act that was staged to appear as a homicide.