Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A murder in Clay County

From the American Spectator:

MANCHESTER, Kentucky -- Rodney Miller has lived nearly all his 56 years in Clay County, the only exception being when, as a young man, he moved to Indianapolis. He lived in the big city for two year without ever knowing his neighbors' names.

"The best people in the world live here," says Miller, sitting in the office of the Manchester Enterprise, where he directs advertising sales. "Down here, everybody knows everybody else."

Bill Sparkman was not from Clay County. A 51-year-old Florida native, Sparkman lived in neighboring Laurel County. Yet when Sparkman's body was found hanging Sept. 12 in a cemetery a dozen miles west of Manchester, the media seems to have placed blame for the apparent murder on Clay County.

The community has suffered plenty of bad publicity in recent years, with a long-running federal corruption investigation that has resulted in charges against eight local officials on vote-rigging. The county also has a reputation for growing marijuana and producing illegal methamphetamine. And on top of these local P.R. problems, the murder also gave national media a chance to recycle stereotypes of rural Kentuckians, much to the annoyance of Clay County residents like Miller.

"Ignorant, backwards hillbillies," he says, recalling a recent cable-news report about Sparkman's death in which the reporter evidently sought out his network's idea of the perfect interview subject for any news story from Kentucky: A toothless, ill-shaven man in overalls.

Yet the Sparkman murder provided liberal bloggers chance to create an entirely new stereotype of Kentuckians as violent right-wingers. Sparkman was employed part-time by the Census Bureau. When his nude body was found hanged from a tree, his federal identification card was taped his shoulder and the word "FED" had been scrawled on his chest.

An Associated Press report said the FBI was "investigating whether anti-government sentiment" played a role in Sparkman's death. Law enforcement officials criticized that story, but the liberal blogosphere seized on it as proving that conservatives had fomented a killing rage among the yokels.

"Send the body to Glenn Beck," Internet pundit Rick Ungar proclaimed Thursday, also indicting Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann (a Republican who had warned that census date could be abused) among right-wingers presumed complicit in Sparkman's murder.

Saturday, the Atlantic Monthly's Andrew Sullivan fretted over "the most worrying possibility," namely that Sparkman's death was "Southern populist terrorism whipped up by the GOP and its Fox and talk radio cohorts."

Rodney Miller dismisses such speculation with blunt language -- bovine excrement, so to speak -- and explains that "fed" as an epithet has a specific localized meaning in Clay County. "Half our public officials are in jail and the other half have been indicted," he says, somewhat exaggerating the result of the federal corruption probe. "So, yeah, there are a lot of a people here who don't like 'feds.'"

Federal agents are also often involved in busting eastern Kentucky's marijuana growers, who are known to plant their crops in the Daniel Boone National Forest, which encompasses much of Clay County. And the success of law enforcement efforts against local drug traffickers -- last month a multi-agency undercover investigation called "Operation Borrowed Time" resulted in more than 50 drug arrests in the county -- may have heightened the animosity toward government officials snooping around, as Sparkman's Census job would have required.

The FBI and Kentucky State Police, who are leading the Sparkman investigation, refuse to discuss possible motives for his murder. Asked about the theories being discussed on the Internet, KSP spokesman Don Trosper said, "It's just speculation and rumors.…We concern ourselves with facts."

Local folks have their own speculation and rumors about the case, most of it centered on the possibility that Sparkman somehow fell afoul of local drug dealers, who may have mistaken his federal identification for proof that he was an undercover informant. One man who lives in London offered a variation on that theory: Perhaps Sparkman actually did report on suspected drug-related activity, and his murder was an act of revenge by associates of someone arrested as the result of a tip from Sparkman.

Go read the rest.

I've been following this story on the news since it happened but since I don't swim in the cesspool of left-wing blogs I have been spared most of the speculation about how this murder could be laid at the feet of those who tell the truth about the little tin messiah.

When I first heard that the area where the body was found was known for marijuana growing and meth labs I was satisfied that the answer had been found.

I mean that it is possible that the killing was done by right-wing zealots protesting the census - possible in the sense that it wouldn't violate the laws of physics - but it just isn't likely. While drug dealers/producers use violence, or the threat of it, to protect their operations every day.

As the old saying goes, "when you hear hoof-beats think horses not zebras".

For more on this you can visit The Other McCain where blogger Robert Stacy McCain has actually traveled to Clay County to conduct his own investigation.