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Grisly hanging of Census worker: an antigovernment act?

FBI is investigating worker's death in Kentucky. Is crime-scene reference to 'fed' a clue or a feint?

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Some Democrats – including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former President Jimmy Carter – have voiced concern recently about heated rhetoric and whether it fuels racism and political violence. (Sparkman is white.)

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Conservatives are not as quick to raise red flags, saying it's a far stretch to connect feisty political dissent with violent acts.

"The FBI will have to answer the question of whether 'antigovernment sentiment' had anything to do with Bill Sparkman's death," writes Shannon Bell, on the Right Pundits blog. "One can only hope that this isolated incident will not result in those who speak out against the government being lumped in with a killer."

Indeed, the perpetrator may have implied political violence to cover up the real motive of the murder, says Mr. Fox. Cases are well documented in which offenders spray-paint messages or leave notes with the intention of misdirecting investigators.

"The word 'fed' could be a smokescreen – or it could, in fact, be part of the motive," says Fox.

Another scenario is that Sparkman may have stumbled into the path of the mountain drug trade. More than 40 drug dealers have been arrested in the past month in the area where Sparkman was working.

Antigovernment sentiments run as far back as to the Whiskey Rebellion in many parts of Appalachia, for instance, and the pot, meth, and moonshine trades often exacerbate tensions between locals and federal law enforcement officials.

"You take back in the hills. There's still a lot of rural area and ... two-lane roads that's never been paved, and people back there don't cotton to any kind of federal person coming to ask any questions," says retired US Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Jack Allen Powell, author of "Revenuers‚ Memories of Yesterday's Moonshiners." "It's more volatile out there than it's ever been."

Retired state trooper Gilbert Acciardo, who worked with Sparkman at an elementary school, said he had warned him to be careful when he did his census work in certain rural areas, according to an Associated Press report. "Even though he was with the Census Bureau, sometimes people can view someone with any government agency as 'the government.' I just was afraid that he might meet the wrong character along the way up there," Mr. Acciardo said.

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