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U.S. Census Worker Hanged Himself in Kentucky with the Word "Fed" Scrawled Across His Chest
November 24, 2009 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Cancer survivor, teacher, single father, and part-time U.S. Census worker Bill Sparkman was found dead September 12, hanging from a tree with the word "FED" written on his chest. It was actually a suicide. (Previously)
posted by Slap Factory (125 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, it's believed to have been a suicide, and the evidence makes it look likely. Dunno that the case is completely closed yet, though.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:29 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your second link didn't work right.

I sure would like more details on how, exactly, they determined this was a suicide. Seems the powers that be, both political and financial, have more to gain by declaring it a suicide than allowing a murder of a Fed census worker to go into the record.
posted by hippybear at 12:30 PM on November 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Heard this on NPR today, and my heart sank.

Also, this:

A man who found the body in the Daniel Boone National Forest said the 51-year-old was bound with duct tape, gagged and had an identification badge taped to his neck.

So he was either remarkably limber, or he had a helper.
posted by jbickers at 12:31 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I sure would like more details on how, exactly, they determined this was a suicide

Yeah for realz. It seems like the only damning evidence here is the life-insurance policy thing. Not that that isn't good grounds for a motive, but really? That's it?
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:32 PM on November 24, 2009


yeah, I'm confused how he could bind himself and hang himself. not to say it isn't possible, but I'd like to know how it was managed. this is just a pretty horrible thing all around.
posted by shmegegge at 12:33 PM on November 24, 2009


Here's a link to the Associated Press article with more details. Some quotes:

"He was touching the ground, and to survive "all Mr. Sparkman had to do at any time was stand up," she said."

"Sparkman had recently taken out two accidental life insurance policies totaling $600,000 that would not pay out for suicide, authorities said. If Sparkman had been killed on the job, his family also would have been be eligible for up to $10,000 in death gratuity payments from the government."

posted by jsonic at 12:35 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The word "FED" on his chest was, apparently, written from bottom to top -- the way someone would write it on his own chest.
posted by orthogonality at 12:38 PM on November 24, 2009


While they were at it, these were also ruled suicide by Kentucky State Police.
posted by Ludi at 12:38 PM on November 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Kentucky State Police press release:
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.
posted by smackfu at 12:39 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to hang yourself if you can touch the ground? I would think it would be like trying to drown yourself by holding you head underwater. I wouldn't think your body would let you do it.
posted by diogenes at 12:39 PM on November 24, 2009


The best suicide rulings are when the victim is shot more than once in the head. This definitely lacks that kind of panache.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:40 PM on November 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


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.

I am honestly shocked.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:40 PM on November 24, 2009


Apparently his hands were taped together, but shoulder width apart. His glasses were taped to his face, which the examiners feel he did to help himself write on his chest. His knees were bent - he could have stood up to take the pressure off his neck. More details here.

I've been following this story since the beginning - I live in Kentucky and often camp near a small private cemetery in the Daniel Boone forest, so that made the initial report pretty immediate. It's a tragedy, and my deepest sympathies go out to Mr. Sparkman's family.
posted by tizzie at 12:40 PM on November 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also this:
State police detective Donald Wilson said Sparkman told a friend he planned to kill himself and gave the friend details of how he was going to do it.
Police declined to identify the man, whom they say Sparkman talked to the Saturday before he killed himself on Wednesday.
The friend told police he didn't think Sparkman was serious, so he didn't tell anybody else.
posted by tizzie at 12:44 PM on November 24, 2009


he was either remarkably limber, or he had a helper.

...

Sparkman's hands were bound, but loosely, allowing him to move them shoulder-width apart, Rudzinski said.

Admittedly, there's a miniscule chance that there's a giant cover-up conspiracy, but it looks like the "hillbilly PD" took their time and got it right.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:48 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This story is nightmarish. It makes my heart hurt to visualize this death and the impact of this latest twist in the story for family and friends.
posted by bearwife at 12:49 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This might be totally twisted of me, but I honestly felt better thinking he was murdered by some Tea Bagging Loony. This is just so...utterly tragic. Every bit of it.

The friend told police he didn't think Sparkman was serious, so he didn't tell anybody else.

A reminder that you should always take suicide threats seriously, even if there doesn't seem to be anything behind it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:50 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I always find MeFi kneejerk reactions fascinating.
posted by found missing at 12:51 PM on November 24, 2009 [9 favorites]


I actually prefer to think it was a suicide for insurance money. Had he been murdered by right wing lunatic because he was a census worker, because that's one less line of maddness our nation has crossed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:55 PM on November 24, 2009 [27 favorites]


I actually prefer to think it was a suicide for insurance money. Had he been murdered by right wing lunatic because he was a census worker, because that's one less line of maddness our nation has crossed.

Excellent point. Thanks for putting that in perspective.

I guess I had assumed that a lot of people, at least in spirit, were over that line already. But in spirit only is a long way from doing the deed.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:58 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Glasses taped to his face" is a pretty strong tipoff that this wasn't murder.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:00 PM on November 24, 2009


What Astro Zombie said.

I still would feel better if some independent (of the local PD) group like the FBI came in and agreed with the investigation.

But assuming this investigation is legit, and I have no reason beyond worry and paranoia to believe it isn't, at least this is a personal tragedy, not a symptom of national degeneration into violence.

It's Ashley Todd with the politics going in the other direction and the tragedy cranked up to eleven.
posted by edheil at 1:05 PM on November 24, 2009


It was meth heads.
posted by Artw at 1:06 PM on November 24, 2009


I still would feel better if some independent (of the local PD) group like the FBI came in and agreed with the investigation.

The FBI and other agencies participated in the investigation.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:07 PM on November 24, 2009


Oh... he was unemployed and in debt, and a cancer survivor -- huge medical debt, we might guess? -- so perhaps it's still an indictment of the condition of our nation... but in a completely different way than it seemed at first.
posted by edheil at 1:08 PM on November 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


My wife worked for the Census (auditing locations, not actually polling people) and the original story scared the crap out of me. We live in the Northeast but there are still plenty of people around here who don't like the federal government much. So I guess I'm somewhat relieved by this news and yet somewhat ashamed that I feel that way.
posted by tommasz at 1:14 PM on November 24, 2009


Desperation is ink black.
posted by nola at 1:14 PM on November 24, 2009


Oh... he was unemployed and in debt, and a cancer survivor -- huge medical debt, we might guess? -- so perhaps it's still an indictment of the condition of our nation...

*whew* Tea baggers are still responsible.
posted by codswallop at 1:18 PM on November 24, 2009 [11 favorites]


Artw, you were the author of the the "hillbilly PD" quote - so maybe you're just trolling along here?
posted by tizzie at 1:23 PM on November 24, 2009


This is so sad. I didn't think anything could make this story any less awful than it was when it first broke, but this might be even worse. How terrible for his family.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:27 PM on November 24, 2009


I always find MeFi kneejerk reactions fascinating.

And I always find the comments on other people's reactions fascinating. As if holding yourself above commenting and subsequently smirking in a superior way at those who did held any value at all.

"Oh look at me, I'm so precious, I didn't say anything, and here you are looking like fools, and here I am to point it out! Dontcha just admire my self-control?"

Not that I'm singling you out, I think that of every comment like this, no disrespect how you doin'.
posted by splice at 1:27 PM on November 24, 2009 [14 favorites]


I always find MeFi kneejerk reactions fascinating.

Seriously? That USAToday link is thin sauce for news like this, and it is only thanks to other MeFites that there is a better thread of why it is believed that this is suicide instead of murder. There really isn't much other content to the post, and based on that one news article, it sounds more like a cover-up with a convenient Matlock-esque excuse than anything else.
posted by hippybear at 1:29 PM on November 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


diogenes: It is possible for a person to drown him/herself in a bucket of water. See, for instance, the Tanevski matter last summer. There's more than one such incident in Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip -- one involved a bucket of lye, IIRC. (There was also a suicide by hanging with barbed wire. Never underestimate the power of desperation.)
posted by CCBC at 1:37 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The fact he took out two life insurance policies prior to his death seems fairly compelling evidence of suicide, at least to me.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 1:38 PM on November 24, 2009


There really isn't much other content to the post, and based on that one news article, it sounds more like a cover-up with a convenient Matlock-esque excuse than anything else.

You could just as easily have looked up the story yourself to find the relevant details instead of insinuating a coverup. Based on the posts in this thread, the details weren't very had to find.
posted by jsonic at 1:39 PM on November 24, 2009


I'm still unconvinced. Somehow these politically touchy cases always turn out to be suicides. And there's a long history of authorities slapping the suicide label on politically sensitive cases to put them to bed as quickly as possible.

If the burden of proof in a murder case is that the suspect be proven "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" why is the standard of proof so much lower in suicide cases? Why should it matter that the alleged killer and victim are the same person?

If suicide were treated as self-murder under the law, would there be enough evidence to find Sparkman guilty of killing himself beyond a reasonable doubt? Not if I were on the jury. I'm not quite ready to accept as fair the defamation of the memory of a dead man who by all prior accounts was decent and honest simply on the word of a handwriting analyst and some thin circumstantial evidence. Sorry if that comes across as paranoid.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:39 PM on November 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


The thing I'd be most interested in is the duct tape... you'd think that there'd be fingerprints preserved on the sticky side of the duct tape. But if the KSP had found them and the only fingerprints were those of the victim, why wouldn't they come out and state that explicitly? And if there are no fingerprints, or ther aren't the victim's, how'd he tape himself up without touching the sticky side of the tape?
posted by Robin Kestrel at 1:40 PM on November 24, 2009


"Oh look at me, I'm so precious, I didn't say anything, and here you are looking like fools, and here I am to point it out! Dontcha just admire my self-control?"

Splice, are you seriously suggesting that there isn't something inherently wise in keeping your mouth shut about something until you've got the actual facts? I happen to agree completely with the "kneejerk" comment and, even said much the same thing in the initial thread (the second one that is, the first got deleted because it was MeFi's uniquely own version of batshitinsane).

There's a million good reasons to HATE the lunatic right. We lower ourselves to their level when we grab onto bad (ie: unsubstantiated) ones and then, bite the heads off of each other when our errors are pointed out to us.
posted by philip-random at 1:43 PM on November 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


Not that I'm singling you out

No worries, splice, b/c I found your reaction to my observation fascinating too!
posted by found missing at 1:43 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to hang yourself if you can touch the ground?

Easily. You pass out from lack of oxygen to the brain, and your body weight does the rest. Autoerotic asphyxiation comes to mind.
posted by coolguymichael at 2:00 PM on November 24, 2009


You know, my first kneejerk reaction to the suicide declaration was "oh fucking bullshit it was." But what I'm seeing here... yeah, it looks pretty clearly like suicide. How terrible.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:00 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm relieved -- at least relieved that this sort of murder is confined to the embellishments of blowhards talking into video cameras at town hall meetings. There certainly have been census workers who have had strange encounters with people in the past (we'll hear about more as the door-to-door stuff gears up next year) but this one was really strange from the beginning and the fact that the strangeness was communicated to friends beforehand is tragic but seems to indicate his intent.

If there were any cause for a homicide investigation, such as his incomplete notes or missing parts of his address list, we'd have heard about that. The gag, the duct tape, the rope all could have yielded DNA.

I knew a kid in high school who hung himself with a man's tie from a closet rod. Apparently it took him a while to suffocate.
posted by dhartung at 2:03 PM on November 24, 2009


I always find kneejerk contrarian reactions even less interesting than other mindless reflexive actions. Hiccups are more fascinating to me. Not believing in "The Devil", I see 'his' Advocates as merely intellectually unemployed.

Back on topic, I am now even sadder for Bill Sparkman and his family and somewhat fearful of the inevitable teabagger response.


.
again
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:03 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The fact he took out two life insurance policies prior to his death seems fairly compelling evidence of suicide, at least to me."

Motive for, not evidence of.
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 2:08 PM on November 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


It is not unheard of for prisoners (for example) to hang themselves by kneeling on the group with a cord/rope tied around their neck to the bars slightly above head height, and then just letting themselves fall forward and choke.

Poor guy. And his son, who was so heartbroken in the last interview I read.

I don't apologize, one bit, for thinking this could have been a murder. Idiots with AK-47s and bible verses about praying for Obama to be "removed" still run around out there, and things like Waco, Ruby Ridge, and Oklahoma City are extremely recent. Oh yes, and the many abortion clinic bombings and this year's murder of Dr. Tiller, all give us all the proof required that certain segments of the American right-wing are fully prepared to do violence in the name of their ideologies.

I am glad he was not murdered, but so sorry for his family and for him.
posted by emjaybee at 2:12 PM on November 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


My skepticism isn't knee-jerk. I've tried to give the evidence careful consideration, too, but I haven't seen any reporting yet to suggest there's any real physical case for suicide here that isn't speculative and/or circumstantial. And I find the mere absence of further physical evidence of murder insufficient evidence of suicide in this case. It just doesn't seem consistent with the life Sparkman reportedly led. And there's no compelling positive physical evidence of suicide--no receipt in the glove-box of Sparkman's truck for the roll of duct tape he used, no felt tip marker found on the scene.

What, did he hop back into the truck and drive off somewhere, completely naked, to hide the spent roll of tape and to hide the pen he used to scrawl the word 'Fed' on his own chest? Did they find all of that stuff stashed somewhere nearby? If not, then aren't there still some loose ends to tie up?
posted by saulgoodman at 2:14 PM on November 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


And there's no compelling positive physical evidence of suicide--no receipt in the glove-box of Sparkman's truck for the roll of duct tape he used, no felt tip marker found on the scene.

Where does it say that the felt tip marker wasn't found on the scene? Is there a link to the full police report somewhere that I'm missing?
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:17 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Where does it say that the felt tip marker wasn't found on the scene?

Well, I'd assume if it had been, that would be a fairly prominent part of the case being advanced to the public to justify the suicide finding. I haven't seen that detail in any of the reports (although obviously I might have missed something).
posted by saulgoodman at 2:19 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pardon me going all conspiracy theorist on y'all, and maybe I've just watched too much X-Files in my day, but staging your own suicide to look like a homicide just...seems unlikely. I mean, what's the motive?
posted by hanncoll at 2:28 PM on November 24, 2009


they... they told us the motive, if it was indeed suicide. his insurance doesn't pay out for suicide. it's right there in the links.
posted by shmegegge at 2:29 PM on November 24, 2009


staging your own suicide to look like a homicide just...seems unlikely. I mean, what's
the motive?


Have you read the post or thread at all?
posted by kmz at 2:30 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Assume this is a suicide. What does it say, then, that Sparkman went to all this trouble to make us believe he was murdered by batshiat crazy right-wing nutjobs? And that so many people are so eager to believe that it was batshiat crazy right-wing nutjobs that they assume guilt without gathering all the facts - "kneejerk" is really the only way to describe it. Even in this thread, the boogeyman is so feared and hated that people cannot believe what has been shown to be the truth. And, even after their kneejerk responses are shown to them, commenters still refuse to apologize for labeling entire sections of the American population as terrorists in training.

oneswellfoop: "somewhat fearful of the inevitable teabagger response"

A large subsection of the population has so much as blamed one group for the murder of an individual with nothing more than their own emotional hatred towards that group as the basis for that blame. Look at the way you use that degrading word to label them. Sorry, a response is justified at this point.

emjaybee: "I don't apologize, one bit, for thinking this could have been a murder."

Similar to:

"I don't apologize, one bit, for thinking Obama could be a Kenyan and not an American citizen."
"I don't apologize, one bit, for thinking Obama is a socialist that wants to take away my guns."

All of these are based on the person's internal hatred for some group or individual, along with their desire to believe what they feel is true as opposed to what has been shown to be true. The existence of the Oklahoma City bombing does not mean that right-wing terrorist groups are on the verge of eliminating the American government any more than 9/11 does. The bombing of an abortion clinic by an individual does not imply that a larger group of individuals plans to inflict violence on anyone. But it does create a convenient boogeyman to rail against on forums such as this one.
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 2:32 PM on November 24, 2009 [16 favorites]


If the burden of proof in a murder case is that the suspect be proven "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" why is the standard of proof so much lower in suicide cases? Why should it matter that the alleged killer and victim are the same person?

I guess because nobody goes to jail for it.
posted by Slap Factory at 2:33 PM on November 24, 2009


Investigators have a significant political motive to issue a suicide ruling. Insurance companies have a very significant financial motive to help the investigators rule this as a suicide. There are lots of motives. The physical evidence that this is suicide would be more compelling than anything else, once the details are released.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:34 PM on November 24, 2009


I worked for the Census in 2000. I know how really vehement people were 10 years ago about not being counted. I was greeted with shotguns, chased off of properties by attack dogs which were sent after me. I had one lady start literally hitting me with her bible as she drove me from her porch. And this all happened during daylight in the middle of La Grande, OR where I was living at the time, not out in the country someplace.

I don't think it's illogical to believe that someone may have killed this man. It has nothing to do with my hating a group of people or individuals, nor does it have to do with my conviction that my beliefs are right or wrong compared to someone else's. If the death has been ruled a suicide, then that's how it will go onto the books. But stop painting people who find that conclusion difficult to swallow with the bigot brush, because I think the entire situation is more complex than that.
posted by hippybear at 2:42 PM on November 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


staging your own suicide to look like a homicide just...seems unlikely. I mean, what's
the motive?

Have you read the post or thread at all?


Yep, I read the post. Nope, I haven't read the comments yet.
posted by hanncoll at 2:45 PM on November 24, 2009


Maybe cancer recurred.
posted by caveat at 2:52 PM on November 24, 2009


Hanncoll - life insurance usually doesn't pay out for suicide. It does for murder.
posted by tzikeh at 3:00 PM on November 24, 2009


Look at the way you use that degrading word to label them.

Teabaggers labeled themselves with that name. Picking that name was of their own choice. You understand that much, right?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:01 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


and things like Waco, Ruby Ridge, and Oklahoma City are extremely recent

Uh. Two of those are not like the others. The first two, tragic ill-managed sieges of federal agents on nutbag religious/right-wing compounds where Federal agents ended up killing civilians, were used as the reasons to justify the third Terrorist act.

I don't think was anything wrong with assuming this guys death was homicide. Since that what it was possibly painted to be. However the problem lies the hysterical rush to connect it to every other possible crazed wing-nut speech or action without evidence or even reasoned judgment. But hey. I'm not into the whole mob thing. Hey. What can I say. Call it my irrational tendency for independent thought.
posted by tkchrist at 3:04 PM on November 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Flamingoking

A large subsection of the population has so much as blamed one group for the murder of an individual with nothing more than their own emotional hatred towards that group as the basis for that blame.

Well, I mean, to be fair - a census worker shows up hanged in Kentucky with "FED" written on his chest during a time when a lot of GOPers were showing up at health-care town halls flaunting assault rifles and threatening coup - I'd hardly call that mere emotional hatred or simple bias.

Similar to:

"I don't apologize, one bit, for thinking Obama could be a Kenyan and not an American citizen."
"I don't apologize, one bit, for thinking Obama is a socialist that wants to take away my guns."


Well, that's really a false analogy for many reasons, not all of which I will address. But I will say that claiming Obama is actually Kenyan or that he is a socialist who will take away your guns is the same as supposing that what looks like (and was made to look like) a politically-motivated murder are really not the same thing at all, and I will assume this was simply stunt hyperbole.

Don't forget that it really isn't just one loony of the far right threatening violence against Obama and the American government. I mean, you've seen the signs they hold at these Tea Bagger things right? I mean, you've been tuned into the things they've been saying for the past few months, yes?
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:11 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: "The best suicide rulings are when the victim is shot more than once in the head. This definitely lacks that kind of panache."

Mr. Furious: [talking about Carmine the Bowler] Seems there was a little controversy there regarding your father's death.
The Bowler: Yes, the police said he fell down an elevator shaft. Onto some bullets.
The Blue Raja: You know, I've alwas suspected a bit of foul play there.
The Bowler: As have I.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 3:15 PM on November 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think the entire situation is more complex than that.

Are we in an alternate reality? This almost exactly what Jerry Falwell said about Vince Foster's suicide. Only it's inverted. His comments were totally insane becuase in Fosters case Falwell felt it was a homicide made to look like a suicide. So one could harbor under that delusion for ever. No matter what all the evidence it would be part of the supposed conspiracy.

Here we may have a suicide made to look like a homicide. It's hard to blame people for thinking it was a homicide. Because that's what it was reported to be. And that supposed homicide — a lynching— was pretty outrageous. Seems to me if the Kentucky LEO were trying to white wash a homicide the really set them selves up for hard time of it.

Anyway. They said they had a witness who knew Sparkman said he was gonna kill himself. That witness would be the key.

So. Perhaps it's even so complicated that it might likely be a suicide, right? I guess we'll never really know.

And by never I mean if we simply go by our own biases and not investigate the facts when they come out.
posted by tkchrist at 3:19 PM on November 24, 2009


Well, I'd assume if {the marker had been found on the scene} that would be a fairly prominent part of the case being advanced to the public to justify the suicide finding. I haven't seen that detail in any of the reports

I'm not sure why: if the marker was on the scene, it could just as easily have been discarded by a hypothetical murderer.

I am not a police officer, but as a journalist I have to say that drawing conclusions about what the findings of a police investigation are, based on what is and isn't in a press release, is a bit of a mug's game to say the least. "If they had found x on the scene, they would have mentioned x in the press release" just doesn't hold up in practice.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:22 PM on November 24, 2009


They said they had a witness who knew Sparkman said he was gonna kill himself. That witness would be the key.

A witness would be someone who actually saw the murder or suicide take place in person.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:23 PM on November 24, 2009


Back on topic, I am now even sadder for Bill Sparkman and his family and somewhat fearful of the inevitable teabagger response.

Fuck the tea baggers. No matter what their response is hateful and irrational.

I'm mostly sad that if this was a suicide this guys family isn't gonna get shit now so the poor bastard did all of that for nothing. And his name is gonna be besmirched by the media when in fact there is something almost heroic about offing yourself and having the where-with-all to have it benefit your family. Inflammatory nature of the death aside.

Talk about a desperate tragedy to underscore the need for health care reform.
posted by tkchrist at 3:26 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I meant a material witness. A material witness is an individual who contains information "material" to a criminal proceeding.
posted by tkchrist at 3:28 PM on November 24, 2009


And by never I mean if we simply go by our own biases and not investigate the facts when they come out.

I'm fairly certain that there isn't a single commenter in this this or the previous thread about this death which actually was involved in any attached investigation, nor is privy to all the facts in this case.
posted by hippybear at 3:48 PM on November 24, 2009


I'll take the police at their word because I don't have enough information about what happened--none of us do. But I would note that the teabagger crowd has some true nutjobs in their midsts, and I think it possible to stage any murder to look like a suicide. Just sayin'.
posted by zardoz at 3:51 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it possible to stage any murder to look like a suicide.

Exactly, how else do you explain the word "fed" scrawled across his chest, unless it was a murder staged as a suicide?
posted by found missing at 3:54 PM on November 24, 2009


staged as a murder
posted by found missing at 3:55 PM on November 24, 2009


You know, staging a hate crime to look like a suicide would seem rather self-defeating, unless you're *really* trying to fuck with peoples heads, and that kind of sublty really isn't a teabagger quality.
posted by Artw at 4:02 PM on November 24, 2009


I'm fairly certain that there isn't a single commenter in this this or the previous thread about this death which actually was involved in any attached investigation, nor is privy to all the facts in this case.

This is absolutely true. Nobody here is even privy to the full police report, so we're all going on our intuitive reactions to the information that's been released so far, and of course no police report represents 100% of the data on the crime scene.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:03 PM on November 24, 2009


I actually prefer to think it was a suicide for insurance money. Had he been murdered by right wing lunatic because he was a census worker, because that's one less line of maddness our nation has crossed.

As a federal employee and a father, let me add another AMEN to that one!
posted by Pollomacho at 4:06 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


zardoz: "… Just sayin'."

How very Beckian of you.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:33 PM on November 24, 2009


zardoz: "… Just sayin'."

How very Beckian of you


It's not just Foxnews. CNN is at too...
posted by jsonic at 4:50 PM on November 24, 2009


Tchrist: I'm sure this guy was desperate, and it sucks that his family will suffer because of his actions, but anyone who lies for their own gain, preying on peoples prejudices to create these poisonous imaginary scenarios where 'hillbilly' rightwingers would murder a guy for taking a poll, his actions merit our disgust, not pity. He may be more sympathetic, but what he did is comparable to that stupid LGF blogger who conjured racist fantasies of a black obama supporter scratching a B in her forehead before the election. If you want to pity the unstable, feel free, but let's not forget to condemn all liars who muddy the water of civilized political discourse.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:57 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think it possible to stage any murder to look like a suicide. Just sayin'.
posted by zardoz at 5:51 PM on November 24


Let's just be clear here that you are suggesting the possibility that this was a murder staged to look like a suicide that was staged to look like a murder.

Just to cover the claimed evidence that has been reported thus far (as quoted from the linked article

- Analysis found that "fed" was written "from the bottom up."
- He was touching the ground, and to survive "all Mr. Sparkman had to do at any time was stand up"
- Sparkman "told a credible witness that he planned to commit suicide and provided details on how and when."
-He told the person he believed his lymphoma, which he had previously been treated for, had recurred
-Sparkman also had recently taken out two accidental life insurance policies totaling $600,000 that would not pay out for suicide
-If Sparkman had been killed on the job, his family also would have been be eligible for up to $10,000 in death gratuity payments from the government.

To dismiss this as some sort of specious fantasy or compare to some sort of "self-inflicted bullets in the back of the head" strains the limits of credulity. The presentation of this as suicide for the financial benefit of his family is entirely plausible and the only apparent evidence against it is that he was bound. Self-binding is hardly a rarity. I wouldn't call my mind made up until I heard more about this "credible witness." But then my mind was never made up in the first place and might never be. But I see no compelling reason to doubt the conclusions of this investigation.

But stop painting people who find that conclusion difficult to swallow with the bigot brush, because I think the entire situation is more complex than that.

Yeah, I'm going to have to say that the entire situation in fact looks exactly as simple as deeply ingrained political bias to me. The people who are fighting the argument of suicide are doing so because they've got such an almighty hard-on for the idea of murderous right-wing hillbillies roaming the woods of Kentucky. This story has managed to utterly disgust me with Metafilter twice.
posted by nanojath at 4:58 PM on November 24, 2009 [14 favorites]


This story has managed to utterly disgust me with Metafilter twice.

Careful you don't tip over, trying to paint all 100,000 of us with that broad brush, there.

Anyway, I'm with the people who still find this tragic -- tragic that, if indeed this was a suicide, someone could feel so utterly desperate, and tragic that a young man has still been left fatherless and grief-stricken to a degree that I wager most of us can never imagine.
posted by scody at 5:10 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


but what he did is comparable to that stupid LGF blogger who conjured racist fantasies of a black obama supporter scratching a B in her forehead before the election.

Only if she blew her brains out or hung herself. And still I'd have to give her at least some points for commitment.

Sorry. I still feel kinda bad for the guy. I know this outrage thing is hip with all the kids these days but my pineal gland exploded about 748 outrages ago and I just can't feel it anymore.
posted by tkchrist at 5:11 PM on November 24, 2009


And his name is gonna be besmirched by the media when in fact there is something almost heroic about offing yourself and having the where-with-all to have it benefit your family.

The guy was obviously troubled and saddled with some issues that generally make me sympathetic to his plight, but I would absolutely draw the line at thinking that what he tried to do (scam an insurance company out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and insinuate that certain fringe elements of society were to blame for his death) was in any way noble or heroic. This is someone who has shamed his family, not by the simple act of his suicide, but by the deceitful nature of how he did it.
posted by dhammond at 5:13 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]



I'm fairly certain that there isn't a single commenter in this this or the previous thread about this death which actually was involved in any attached investigation, nor is privy to all the facts in this case.

Yeah? And? Not sure what your getting at here. I mean you can say that about every single case like this in history. You can throw the same question mark at the end of all them. Like the end of those horror movies . THE END. OR IS IT!?! Duhn duhn DUUUUUUUHN!

Gary Gilmore, Guilty! Or was he? John Wayne Gacy, Guilty! Or was he? Vince Foster, suicide! Or was it? None of us were privy to all the details were we? It's all so complicated.

At what point to acquiesce to the evidence to which the authorities give us access. Or do we never take their word for it. I mean I'm as distrustful of authority as the next liberal but really just claiming it's "all too complicated" to conclude what happened as the authorities claim starts to get baseless and Oliver Stone paranoid after a while. Least I think that's what you mean. OR IS IT!?!

DUHN DUHN DUUUUUHN!
posted by tkchrist at 5:20 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is someone who has shamed his family, not by the simple act of his suicide, but by the deceitful nature of how he did it.

Hence the word "almost" in "almost heroic." I guess subtly or reading comprehension is not a Metafilter strong point. Yes. All 100,000 thousand of you.
posted by tkchrist at 5:22 PM on November 24, 2009


Hence the word "almost" in "almost heroic."

I'd replace "almost" with "not even close to being" but to each his own.
posted by dhammond at 5:24 PM on November 24, 2009


Wow. I'm skeptical — there are too many cases of "suicide" that are clearly impossible to have occurred unassisted — but this seems legit. Thank goodness it wasn't a nutty right-wing rager or a meth-head.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:28 PM on November 24, 2009


I'd replace "almost" with "not even close to being" but to each his own.

Do it in your head if that helps. Or maybe read it in the light it was meant. As in a sad slightly sarcastic musing. Your choice. Metafilter Mad Libs can be fun.
posted by tkchrist at 5:28 PM on November 24, 2009


Yeah? And? Not sure what your getting at here.

What I'm getting at was stated very early on: "I sure would like more details on how, exactly, they determined this was a suicide."

You seem to be insisting that we can "investigate" the facts as they come out and not rely on our intuition. Yet everything we've talked about here is, at best, heresay and doesn't really count in any legitimate sense.

You seem very very invested in being "right" about this particular story. I wish you all the best in that particular endeavor.
posted by hippybear at 5:46 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Grrr. Or maybe "hearsay", too.
posted by hippybear at 5:47 PM on November 24, 2009


Thank you tkchrist. I really, really, really, really, REALLY, REALLY hate it when people start talking about Waco because it seems like the large majority of people really don't know anything at all about what happened there. Same with Ruby Ridge.

For anyone who has somehow managed to NOT see it, please watch Waco: The Rules of Engagement. Be ready to cry and want to punch out an ATF agent. Just saying.
posted by Bageena at 6:31 PM on November 24, 2009


Yet everything we've talked about here is, at best, heresay and doesn't really count in any legitimate sense.

Statements by the investigating officers aren't "hearsay" in any reasonable sense.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:37 PM on November 24, 2009


You seem to be insisting that we can "investigate" the facts as they come out and not rely on our intuition.

You seem to be hung up on the word investigate. How about research. Use that.

But yes. Don't rely on your intuition. Exactly right.

The intuition based mob-mentality legal system has never proved to work out very well. In a court of law or in the court of public opinion. As flawed as they may be our law enforcement experts and our judicial system do a better job than intuition. 9 times out of ten.

You seem very very invested in being "right" about this particular story.

I've invested $5. Same as in town. Again you seem to by implying something but I'm at a loss as to what it is.
posted by tkchrist at 6:42 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look at the way you use that degrading word to label them.

The Teabaggers themselves were the ones who came up with the name. It's unintentionally hilarious, and I see no need to stop the humiliation.

I do think this case was a suicide. I also think the Teabaggers deserve all the scorn they bring upon themselves.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:57 PM on November 24, 2009


Where does it say that the felt tip marker wasn't found on the scene? Is there a link to the full police report somewhere that I'm missing?

Not a police report, but the CNN article says this:

Analysts found ink dots, made by writers on completing a letter, at the top of the letters, rather than at the bottom -- as would be expected if someone had made the writing on Sparkman. Despite a search by authorities, the black felt pen used for the writing has not been found.
posted by zerbinetta at 6:58 PM on November 24, 2009


I guess because nobody goes to jail for it.

Unless you're a Christian and then you get to spend eternity in hell (or at least do a long stint in purgatory). And either way, you and your family get all the benefits of your posthumous celebrity as a naked, auto-asphyxiating freak.

There should have to be a much higher burden of proof for making such horrendous claims about the dead, who after all, are no longer around to defend themselves. Meanwhile, I still feel it's reasonable to think there's room for doubt about this conclusion, while accepting it as the legitimate legal outcome. That's basically where I stand on this.

My point about the pen or marker or whatever is just that, if this were suicide, the pen would have to be somewhere in the vicinity of the body, as would the duct tape roll. Sparkman would have had no opportunity to remove them from the scene, and that's a given. So finding the pen and the duct tape roll are necessary, though not sufficient, to prove suicide. As you correctly point out, the murderers could have discarded these items at the scene, so finding them doesn't prove suicide but it does offer strong corroborating physical evidence.

But, in light of the circumstances, if Sparkman killed himself, the pen and the duct tape roll must have been left at the scene, or have been nearby. That seems fairly obvious and uncontroversial.

So, if I were a defense attorney representing Sparkman, to defend him from the charge of suicide, I would ask, so where is that pen or duct tape roll?

Now, maybe the police have already reported finding these items and I missed hearing about it, or maybe officials didn't think these items were significant enough to look for. But if I were Sparkman's defense attorney, I'd want a thorough search of the scene and surrounding area performed, and I'd want those items found, or I'd have to say the absence of this physical evidence raises reasonable doubts.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:10 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you want to pity the unstable, feel free, but let's not forget to condemn all liars who muddy the water of civilized political discourse.

Once you get to the point where you're ready to kill yourself, you're not thinking clearly. Obviously, the way he tried to deflect blame was dishonest. He was trying to have his insurance pay out, the only thing on his mind which mattered. The rest is really incidental. Someone who is at that point is not going to think about anything like political ethics at all. I think it's a bit much to expect someone in that state of mind to understand the full effects of their actions, selfish though they indeed are. Putting up an example like this is not of much utility anyway. How many "liars who muddy the water of civilized political discourse" are going to be in his position?
posted by krinklyfig at 7:11 PM on November 24, 2009


There should have to be a much higher burden of proof for making such horrendous claims about the dead, who after all, are no longer around to defend themselves

I don't see why that should matter in a legal sense. Their rights are not at issue, either, unlike a murder case. It's not easy justifying spending a lot of money pursuing a suspect which is already dead, if that's the most likely suspect.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:15 PM on November 24, 2009


And as for the fact that the dots were at the top of the letters, didn't it occur to anyone that if the writer was writing on Sparkman's chest as Sparkman lay prone (say, tied up in the back of a truck), the writer might have found it easier to write upside down, leaning in from over Sparkman's head, rather than having to straddle Sparkman's torso while writing. This scenario, too, would have created the reversed ink dot patterns noted in the handwriting analysis of the word FED.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:23 PM on November 24, 2009


The Teabaggers themselves were the ones who came up with the name.

Dude, really? I'm pretty sure that they mostly called themselves "tea party protesters" or some similar derivation of that. As far as I can dig up, the first people to call them "teabaggers" were those who were being critical of the protests.

I hate to defend them like this, but let's be fair here.
posted by av123 at 7:24 PM on November 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, their friends, families and off-spring should still have legal rights.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:25 PM on November 24, 2009


Well, their friends, families and off-spring should still have legal rights.

Yes, but those rights are not at issue, either, and they are not on trial. They don't have the right to make the police investigate everything they demand. The system doesn't work like that.

I am not sure that the friends and family of this person are trying to open up this case again, so that may be a moot point, but I imagine that anyone with enough evidence of an actual murder would have the option of presenting it to law enforcement to see that justice is done. Problem is, I don't see anyone doing that right now.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:35 PM on November 24, 2009


But if I were Sparkman's defense attorney, I'd want a thorough search of the scene and surrounding area performed, and I'd want those items found, or I'd have to say the absence of this physical evidence raises reasonable doubts.

You guys. Really?

I call this the ancient astronauts argument. As all this sophisticated building... it's all too complicated for primitive man to figure out.

No it's not. It's like "the glove don't fit, you must acquit!" No. You don't.

There are a million different ways for even a slightly inventive person to accomplish everything you described.

Off hand I can think of several possibilities. For instance. You can scrawl on your chest anywhere. Doesn't HAVE to be on the scene. Ink is dry either way. Same with the duct tape. You can wind around one wrist wide enough to make an open loop, leave a longer tail of tape, get to the scene, poke your other wrist through, wrap off the open end with your mouth.

Who knows. But these things, the pen, the tape, are hardly the AHA! type gaps in evidence you seem to think.

We shall see. Who knows. It could be a set up. Some how I sincerely doubt it. I have a feeling conspiracy type people will believe what they want in spite of the evidence. They always do.
posted by tkchrist at 7:37 PM on November 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Dude, really?

Yes, really. I distinctly remember it. I'd have to look up a citation to be absolutely sure, because admittedly my memory is not always reliable with stuff like this. But I'm certain this is the way my brain know it, though my brain has been wrong before when it comes to details like this.

In other words, yes, I'm certain, even if I'm wrong. And I may be.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:43 PM on November 24, 2009


This scenario, too, would have created the reversed ink dot patterns noted in the handwriting analysis of the word FED.

OMG. Are you serious. So they would have to have written upside down and backwards. You get that, right?

Who would do that? If you have the guy prone or unconscious who would write upside down when you could re-orient the guy and write right-side up like you do a million times? You could kneel on the guy. What do you care if you have kneel on the guy if he's taped up.

And the idea was IF it was a lynching, he was written on after he was hung and was vertical, like in other cases people have been lynched. Guy is suspended by his throat, you write on him.
If the entire point is send a message to the FEDS you'd want it to be legible and it's kind of a "fuck you" after thought.

Your reaching here. Really reaching.

The lettering was done upside down and backwards. Who would do that. Somebody trying to make a homicide look like a suicide that looked like a homicide? It's absurd.

The only way you'd have a point was if the LEO investigators were lying about it being written upside down and backwards. Which any forensic expert would be able to detect.
posted by tkchrist at 7:50 PM on November 24, 2009


Jesus. The guy had to know what his staged suicide would do to the country. And he did it anyway. That's just mind-blowingly awful.
posted by mediareport at 7:52 PM on November 24, 2009


The guy had to know what his staged suicide would do to the country. And he did it anyway.

But don't you see, this is the similar to what people say about every suicide. "Didn't he know what it would do to his family?" After the fact everybody wonders what the fuck the person who killed themselves was thinking. It never makes much sense.

Most people who are driven to commit suicide are not thinking rationally along that vein. They usually just don't care anymore what the fuck it does to anybody else.

If this was a suicide, and I'm only about 75% convinced it was at this point, it's not hard to imagine all this guy would be thinking about would be his family.

Sure. His plan was devious, insane, desperate, and not likely to work. Of course. His thinking is already totally distorted. Most suicides cases the thinking is completely distorted. It's not a rational state.
posted by tkchrist at 8:00 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


METAFILTER: yes, I'm certain, even if I'm wrong. And I may be.
posted by philip-random at 8:35 PM on November 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Reallly, Flamingo King? I'm just like a birther because I found the idea that Sparkman was murdered for political reasons plausible? Huh. You get on with your false equivalencies there.

But you see, what I didn't do, is go on CNN and assert that I knew the truth, hold rallies about how I knew the truth, or anything similar. Nor am I a media figurehead with an audience, or any influence in a major political party. Just a random Internet person who has seen enough stories and documentaries about violence by right-wing types to see some parallels to what I knew of this situation.

And no, I don't apologize for that. I didn't ruin anyone's name or try to derail an election; I didn't sit on a jury and convict an innocent person of this crime. I incited no one to violence, I made no threats. I did not set myself up as an expert or try to influence other people to believe as I did.

I expressed my goddamn honest opinion in a goddamn internet forum. That's it.  And I don't owe you or anyone an apology for that.
posted by emjaybee at 8:57 PM on November 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think he is referring to, in general, the thinking pattern of easily and readily attributing negative behaviors to a group with which you do not agree politically
posted by freshundz at 9:19 PM on November 24, 2009


It'll be good to see the teabaggers support the ruling on OJ Simpson's innocence.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:29 PM on November 24, 2009


Reallly, Flamingo King? I'm just like a birther because I found the idea that Sparkman was murdered for political reasons plausible?

I'd have to say you're acting a bit like a birther more because you seem to find official information from medical and law-enforcement professionals implausible. How does the medical examiner in this case carry less credibility than the registrar in Hawaii?
posted by chimaera at 9:37 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Yeah, I'm going to have to say that the entire situation in fact looks exactly as simple as deeply ingrained political bias to me. The people who are fighting the argument of suicide are doing so because they've got such an almighty hard-on for the idea of murderous right-wing hillbillies roaming the woods of Kentucky."

Well, two things - one there are, actually, murderous right-wing hillbillies roaming the woods of Kentucky. They are the Kentucky State Militia (still). Charlie Puckett wasn't indicted until 2002 mostly because he'd had two state legislators out to Knob Creek to shoot machine guns (et.al) and had a lot of pull. I'd suspect telling fellow members on the web to hunt down one of their fellow legislators and bringing plenty of ammo to do so - maybe went a bit far.
But groups like that are experiencing a resurgence just now and have the Ohio Valley Freedom Fighters based in Louisville heading out to the teabagger parties recruiting folks. Y'know, for "the revolution" - just 'in case' *wink*

Their website (I won't link it, easy enough to find) has the usual masturbatory gear-up oriented fantasy stuff, but reading "African American Political Pundit" he's suggesting black folks gear up the same way, which is y'know, all fuzzy and comforting (yeah, that's sarcasm if you're not calibrated. I'm a big fan of firearms, but then, I'm well trained and extremely disciplined. Having fearful yahoos arm themselves to proactively remedy social problems makes about as much sense to me as an evangelical amateur bomb squad)
So whether someone is lynched or not they're there and they are dangerous to themselves and others and should be handled with care.

Two - why would Sparkman fake an implausible homicide? It's not like he wrote alien lettering on his chest and stuck some sort of futuristic looking probe up his ass. I'm not arguing 'stupid,' it wasn't a smart thing to do, nor judicious. But - why not drug dealers? Why not a random killing by some serial killer? He wanted to make it look plausible. And perhaps he counted on a visceral reaction, which there was, to cover any holes in the story. It's monkey-smart enough to have worked, but criminal investigators don't work that way. They just plod along like a machine. They don't care if it was Nazi's, hit men, or Jack the Ripper, they just punch in and weigh and sift.
So you get details like the marker going up instead of down. The insurance. All that. And they're not distracted by the implications or bent by sympathy.
Granted political motives can weigh on what evidence comes to trial and/or to the press, all that. But the plodding is always the same. And can be fooled. But not fooled like that.
But again - he wasn't stupid in his consideration of why someone might kill him. Just in doing it. And maybe how it'd shake out.

I don't know anyone who went "Whoa! The crazy right wing militias walking around in armed groups everywhere wearing paramilitary gear saying that people should resist the federal government in general and the census in particular with firearms? Why would they go and kill a census worker?"
Some people theorized meth-heads. Not a bad guess really.
But c'mon, you can't throw down a challenge and not expect it to get answered. You don't really have much room to bitch if it's not answered the way you'd like. Don't like people killing themselves and blaming your outfit? Maybe tone down the insinuations that you'd kill census workers.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:51 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Is it possible to hang yourself if you can touch the ground? I would think it would be like trying to drown yourself by holding you head underwater. I wouldn't think your body would let you do it."

People die all the time from misadventure during autoerotic asphyxiation.

"Who would do that? If you have the guy prone or unconscious who would write upside down when you could re-orient the guy and write right-side up like you do a million times? You could kneel on the guy. What do you care if you have kneel on the guy if he's taped up. "

I had a girlfriend who could write any combination of backwards, mirrored, or inverted with either hand as easily as you'd write forwards with your dominate hand. Not to say that's what happened but writing upside down isn't very difficult with a little practice.

I've got to wonder how often murderers get away with it by disguising it as a suicide. It's interesting that he picked such a flagrant suicide method if financial gain was his goal when your garden variety head on into a semi is just as effective and rarely gets labelled a suicide.
posted by Mitheral at 9:55 PM on November 24, 2009


We can still blame the teabaggers, since this was after all somewhat motivated by their sentiments, correct?
posted by FuManchu at 10:03 PM on November 24, 2009


The missing pen is interesting.

We had a drive-into-a-semi suicide out where I used to live. The guy was a convicted pedophile who committed incest with his daughter when he was released from jail, then drove into a truck. Those who saw what little was left of his car wished they hadn't.
posted by mecran01 at 10:19 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The missing pen is interesting.

I'm sorry, but not really. If you were trying to make your suicide look like a murder, you wouldn't leave the pen around because your average "murderer" would not generally leave evidence like that around. And given that the pen most likely did not have the fingerprints of a "guilty" party on them, that's all the more reason not to include it in a faked crime scene.
posted by dhammond at 10:38 PM on November 24, 2009


But - why not drug dealers? Why not a random killing by some serial killer? He wanted to make it look plausible.

It's interesting that he picked such a flagrant suicide method if financial gain was his goal when your garden variety head on into a semi is just as effective and rarely gets labelled a suicide.

Was jsonic's post upthread missed by a lot of people? His survivors would get $10,000 from the government if he was killed on the job. It seems obvious that he was trying to imply that his census work was behind his "murder" and have his dependents collect that extra 10k. Making it look random would not help in that regard.
posted by Snyder at 12:47 AM on November 25, 2009


Most people who are driven to commit suicide are not thinking rationally

Yeah, I know that. It's still mind-blowingly awful.
posted by mediareport at 5:37 AM on November 25, 2009


emjaybee: "I don't apologize, one bit, for thinking this could have been a murder."

Similar to:

"I don't apologize, one bit, for thinking Obama could be a Kenyan and not an American citizen."
"I don't apologize, one bit, for thinking Obama is a socialist that wants to take away my guns."


Except that in one case, people saw something that, as they say, looked like a duck, walked like a duck, quacked like a duck, and decided it was a duck. Now, it turned out we were wrong, it was a fake duck designed to fool us. But it was a valid (though, again, erroneous) conclusion given the evidence.

In your other examples, people see something that looks like a duck and decide it must be a Kenyan Muslim Socialist! OMG!
posted by EarBucket at 7:53 AM on November 25, 2009


No, EarBucket, there's a difference.

For example, I fully accept the outcome of this investigation as the legitimate and lawful outcome.

And I don't see any need to posit some kind of official "cover up" as the reason for my disagreeing, in principle, with the outcome.

I continue to harbor personal reservations about the eagerness of many to accept the case as closed when the reputation of a man who by all accounts was devoted to his family and to public service and who successfully overcame life-threatening cancer (only to kill himself a little later in a half-assed grab for insurance money?) is on the line.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:42 AM on November 25, 2009


For example, I fully accept the outcome of this investigation as the legitimate and lawful outcome.

And I don't see any need to posit some kind of official "cover up" as the reason for my disagreeing, in principle, with the outcome.

I continue to harbor personal reservations about the eagerness of many to accept the case as closed


What?

You accept it, it's not a cover-up, but still it might be a conspiracy but ... what? How can you have principled disagreement with what will, eventually, be a material fact.

Either he killed himself or he didn't. It's not a place to take a principled position on. You don't take principled stand on the sky being blue or gravity. That's just bizarre.

I have reservations until I can review all the facts. IOW I'm not 100% certain of what occurred here.

But not one of my reservations is based on my own half-assed assessment of a so-called lack of material evidence that only have relevance in my own imagination. This is an episode of Murder She Wrote. AHA! The pen was missing that must mean it still could be murder!

It doesn't work like that.

You have four possible choices:

It was suicide. The preponderance of the evidence we know about supports this currently.

It was murder. We only think this because that it how it was originally reported. Under this choice we must conclude LEO are deliberately covering it up as all circumstantial evidence point to murder earlier. Our suspicions of whether LEO organizations are colluding to white wash the murder as suicide have only a prejudicial basis. We have no proof of that only a few past experiences - hence, prejudicial. For which you are speculating wildly as to what "proof" there might be the official LEO story is incorrect. If you believe it might be incorrect the ONLY conclusion is they are lying and it is a cover-up.

It was a murder made to look like a suicide that was made to look like a murder. In other words if the cops are NOT making up evidence then somebody went to a bizarre amount of trouble to overtly stage a homicide lynching crime scene, one meant to intimidate Federal workers, but leave an evidence trail to lead investigators to believe it was a suicide. Which ultimately is absurd.

It was a murder and the cops are completely and totally incompetent. If there was no cover up then this is our only choice. This is possible. Especially since we don't know all the facts. But it is highly unlikely in such a high profile case and given the FBI is also investigating. It would mean that every single piece of forensic evidence that is leading them to a suicide conclusion has been completely misinterpreted by dozens of investigators. While possible, it's impossible to say at this point.

Only one of these should let a principled educated person accept the current conclusion without soliciting legitimate outrage and demanding further investigation. The cops are either right, corrupt, or incompetent.
posted by tkchrist at 1:02 PM on November 25, 2009


"Was jsonic's post upthread missed by a lot of people? …have his dependents collect that extra 10k. Making it look random would not help in that regard.”

Were the extra words regarding motive in my post upthread missed by you? Rhetorical questions not your cup of meat?
posted by Smedleyman at 1:45 PM on November 25, 2009


"Was jsonic's post upthread missed by a lot of people? His survivors would get $10,000 from the government if he was killed on the job. It seems obvious that he was trying to imply that his census work was behind his 'murder' and have his dependents collect that extra 10k. Making it look random would not help in that regard."

I'm not familiar in the least on how those benefits work but wouldn't he be covered automatically during an automobile accident if he was working?
posted by Mitheral at 2:05 PM on November 25, 2009


Mitheral: "but wouldn't he be covered automatically during an automobile accident if he was working?"

it's not reliably easy to kill yourself with a car accident. it's too common to end up in a coma instead, or horribly maimed or any number of other less desirable results.
posted by shmegegge at 2:29 PM on November 25, 2009


You accept it, it's not a cover-up, but still it might be a conspiracy but ... what? How can you have principled disagreement with what will, eventually, be a material fact.

No, I didn't say I think "it still it might be a conspiracy" or anything of the sort. I said I believe it's possible the police investigation reached the wrong conclusion, and that I think it's a shame that people anywhere would relish seeing the reputation of someone who by all accounts was considered a good, honest man by those around him destroyed posthumously if any reasonable doubt might exist about the results of the police investigation.

The standard of proof for suicide is legally much lower than the standard of proof for murder. In this case, no charges are being brought, so legal standards of proof don't even apply. Nor do standards of evidence. And there's no official process of cross-examining or challenging the claims of the the official case.

And I accept all that. It's obvious to me that a reasonable person could also look at the evidence as its been presented to the public and conclude that suicide is the likeliest explanation. However, that evidence has not gone through the rigorous scrutiny to which further investigation and a public trial process would have subjected it.

The police conducted a thorough investigation and determined that insufficient evidence existed for a murder investigation, and further concluded that suicide, based on the circumstantial evidence, seemed a more likely explanation. That's all they have to do. They've satisfied their legal obligations, and the system has, in its way, done it's job.

However, the standards required to make the case that Sparkman killed himself are much lower under the law as a simple technical matter. So to my mind, there still exists room for reasonable doubt about the outcome as well.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:00 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


yikes! please ignore all the typos. i was just hoping to lend my comments a little more tin-foil hat brigade cred.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:02 AM on November 30, 2009


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