Mysterious death leaves son seeking truth in Clay Co.
By Jason Riley
Photo By Michael Hayman, The Courier-JournalJosh Sparkman, son of slain census worker Bill Sparkman, on the steps of his father's home in London, Ky.
LONDON, Ky. — He was called home by his father's death and now sits in an empty house, weary and alone.
Josh Sparkman is tired of the media asking him about his father, Bill Sparkman, who was found naked, tied to a tree in Eastern Kentucky last month, bound and gagged with the word “fed” scrawled on his chest. He is frustrated with police. And he feels that his family hasn't been there for him.
“This story has been used for people's amusement,” Sparkman said softly, looking down as he smoked several cigarettes to the nub during a wide-ranging interview outside his father's single-story white home in London, Ky. “That's not right. … It's like a real-life drama series and it's not. It's real life.”
Sparkman, 20, described how he learned of his father's death while living in Tennessee, how he has dodged a barrage of media requests and what he thinks his father was doing on the day he disappeared.
His father, Bill Sparkman, was “very scared” of some of the back-road places his job took him and was uneasy with the “weird looks” he sometimes received, Josh Sparkman said. But he wasn't a man easily dissuaded from his task of information gathering as a part-time U.S. Census Bureau employee.
“If people didn't answer the door the first time, he would come back,” Sparkman said. “He would talk to neighbors, ask what kind of vehicle the person drove. He took pride in his work. … And he always got his case.”
That persistence might have gotten his father killed, Sparkman believes.
But some residents and officials in neighboring Clay County, where Sparkman's body was found near a remote cemetery, balk at the speculation that he was killed because of an anti-government sentiment or by area drug dealers he might have stumbled upon.
They're critical of the media — who they say have been recycling eastern Kentucky stereotypes and sensationalized the case.
“There is no reason for this to go international,” said Charles House, the President of the Clay County Genealogical and Historical Society, who has received media calls about the case from as far away as France.