Dead Census Worker Was Warned To “Be Careful” In Rural Kentucky

Bill Sparkman was warned about the danger of going into rural parts of Kentucky to conduct Census interviews, a retired state trooper who knew him told TPMmuckraker.

Gilbert Acciardo, who ran an after-school program at a southeastern Kentucky high-school where Sparkman was a substitute teacher, said that when Sparkman — a Florida native — first started doing the Census work, “I said, you’re going into rural Kentucky, isolated areas. Be careful over there — people may not understand that you’re there to gather statistics.”Sparkman was found dead recently in a remote part of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Acciardo made clear that his warning was prompted by the area’s isolated nature — he said cell-phone reception is often lacking — rather than being an explicit reference to anti-government sentiment, or to the danger of coming upon marijuana growing or meth labs.

There has been speculation that one or both of those factors could have led to Sparkman’s death. An anonymous law enforcement source told the AP that the word “Fed” was found scrawled on Sparkman’s chest.

But the death has not been officially ruled a homicide, and a Kentucky police spokesman told the Plum Line’s Greg Sargent that that AP story contains “flaws and errors.” Asked whether the information about the word “Fed” being scrawled on Sparkman’s chest was one such error, the spokesman declined to comment.

The spokesman also told Sargent that though Sparkman’s death had been ruled as being caused by asphyxia, Sparkman was in contact with the ground when he was found — raising the possibility that he may not have been hanged.

Speaking to TPMmuckraker, Acciardo said that marijuana is known to be grown in the National Forest, but suggested that the same is true of many parts of rural Kentucky.

Acciardo suggested that Sparkman’s death may have occurred as early as Thursday September 10th. He said that Sparkman was scheduled to show up for work at 3:30 pm on that day. When he didn’t do so, and didn’t call the school, Acciardo became concerned, and eventually contacted law enforcement.

Acciardo described Sparkman, 51, as friendly and reliable, saying he “always had a smile on his face.” Acciardo added that Sparkman had a son, Josh Sparkman, who is in his early 20s and lives in Cookville, Tennessee.