FRANKFORT — Days before a U.S. Census worker was found dead near a secluded Clay County cemetery, he told another man he planned to kill himself but make it look as if he'd been murdered, according to the state police case file released Friday.
William E. Sparkman Jr. of London told Lowell Adams he had practiced asphyxiating himself by placing a bag over his head and had blacked out at times, Adams told police.
Sparkman said that when he was going "to do it for real," he planned to put a rope around his neck, tie it to a tree, put blocks on his feet for weight and throw himself down a hill, Adams told police.
"Bill said he wanted to kill himself rather than die from cancer," Adams said in a written statement to police.
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Sparkman, 51, asked Adams to help him because he wasn't sure he could complete the suicide alone, but Adams refused, according to the file.
Visitors to the cemetery saw Sparkman's body Sept. 12 and called police.
He was wearing only socks, and his hands were bound with duct tape, though he could have moved them several inches apart. There was a rope around his neck tied to a tree, but his feet were in contact with the ground.
His glasses and identification card were taped to his head, and the letters "fed" were written on his chest.
The odd details of the death touched off a furor in the media. Speculation in Internet postings included that Sparkman had been killed because he was a federal employee, or that he had stumbled upon a drug operation.
Police investigated reports involving alleged drug dealers in the area where Sparkman's body was found and took a statement from an informant who said the word on the street was that Sparkman was a "rat for the feds."
However, after a lengthy investigation that included polygraph tests of several people, police concluded that Sparkman had killed himself but attempted to make the death look like a homicide.
With the rope around his neck thrown over a limb and tied to another tree, Sparkman leaned forward, which put the weight of his body on his neck and caused him to pass out quickly, police said.
Sparkman's mother, Henrie Sparkman of Inverness, Fla., told the Herald-Leader on Friday that family members do not believe Sparkman killed himself. He was a religious man who considered suicide a mortal sin, she said.
The family has hired a private investigator to look into the case, she said.
The police file included some new details, though authorities had released most of the information in November when they closed the case.
Police say Sparkman was trying to preserve payments under two $300,000 life-insurance policies that would have paid off if he died accidentally or was murdered, but not if he killed himself.
Sparkman said in a letter he left that his son, Josh, of London, was the beneficiary of one policy and Adams was the beneficiary of the other.
Sparkman had been successfully treated for cancer in 2008 but apparently was worried the cancer had returned.
He told Adams last August he was taking an experimental drug that wasn't working. Sparkman said he would die of cancer by October, Adams told police.
Sparkman was a substitute teacher but also worked part-time for the census.
Adams, a friend of Sparkman's son, told police Sparkman sometimes paid him $7.50 an hour to travel with him on census duties.
Sparkman sometimes worried about his safety in remote areas and carried a gun, though he said he wouldn't shoot anyone, Adams said.
He said Sparkman talked to him several times about committing suicide, the last time on Sept. 5 as they worked in Rockcastle County.
Adams at first told police he had no details on Sparkman's death but provided information after being asked to take a lie-detector test at the FBI office in London.
The polygraph examiner concluded Adams told the truth when he said he did not help Sparkman die.
The information from Adams was one key factor in the conclusion by police that Sparkman killed himself, but there were several others.
For instance, Sparkman had no wounds to show he had fought with someone or been assaulted.
There were no signs of a struggle at the scene, either, and police found only Sparkman's DNA on items there.
Medical examiners concluded that Sparkman wrote the letters "fed" on himself because they were applied from the bottom up — not the way someone facing Sparkman would have done it.
Sparkman's socks were dirty on the bottom, indicating he walked to the spot where he died on his own.
And Sparkman had a bone fracture in his neck that was healing, which was consistent with Adams' statement that Sparkman said he had practiced asphyxiating himself.
Investigators found a note Sparkman had left at his home for his son.
"In a best-case scenario (at least for you), the accident policy will provide enough for you to live off the interest. Do not blow the money on anything," Sparkman wrote to his son. "This was meant to provide for you in case something happened to me.
"Whatever the case, I love you and will always do so."