First, speculation about the motive for the killing of Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census worker, continues. Roger Hedgecock's WorldNetDaily column:
Last week, Sparkman's death became fodder for more attacks on "right-wing violence." Bloggers wanted to "send the body to Glenn Beck," and a Time magazine piece speculated that Sparkman was a victim of the culture of another McCain-voting Southern stateMexicans? In Clay County, Kentucky? Is there a "Little Tijuana" neighborhood down in Manchester? I expect to be there before suppertime, so we'll wait and see about that angle. The case is making headlines as far away as Scotland, where Andrew Purcell of the Herald writes:
Now it looks more like Sparkman was yet another victim of illegal drug operations on national forest land, and possibly also a victim of our still open border with Mexico.
The death is fuelling speculation he was killed simply because he worked for the federal government – now the target of a wave of hate from extreme right-wingers. . . .Ah, so according to Purcell, the killers are either (a) right-wing extremists or (b) dope gangs. And then there's Dan Riehl's theory, but no need to go into that just now. The main reason I want to see Clay County for myself is summed up by this Associated Press article in the Louisville Courier-Journal:
Dave Breyer, of the regional FBI field office in Louisville, sought to play down assumptions a violent dislike of bureaucratic interference could have motivated the killer.
"I think to give this impression he was strung up because he was a federal employee is giving a bad impression to the nation," he said. . . .
Carl Greene, a reporter at [the Corbin, Ky.] Times-Tribune, said it was just as likely Sparkman stumbled upon a drug operation. "The mountain people grow a lot of marijuana," he said. "There are methamphetamine labs there. The place has gotten a reputation. It is an area where the law is sometimes ignored."
Positive news stories about Clay County don't come often.Indeed. Well, I'm coming down there to report facts, not stereotypes. Assuming that Clay County is not entirely populated by moonshiners, meth cookers, Mexicans, marijuana growers and militia extremists, I hope to provide a more balanced perspective on this rural community.
When it comes to national news, the rural county about 170 miles southeast of Louisville seems to be a magnet for negative headlines. And to some local residents, the recent discovery of the body of U.S. census worker Bill Sparkman is just the latest blemish. . . .
"It makes us all seem like idiots that do anything they can do to make money," said Freda Collins, 41, of the Burning Springs community near Manchester. "You feel embarrassed for one thing. You get to the point where you don't want to tell anyone where you're from because of the stereotypes. But what can you do?"
Ask yourself this: How many murders happen in Washington, D.C., every year? So how come this one murder -- because it happened in Appalachia -- has generated such lurid speculation?
Hang on, Freda Collins. Just another 390 miles to go today, and I should be there by nightfall. As for the rest of y'all -- hit the tip jar.
I can scavenge pretty well when I have to. They serve a free continental breakfast here at this motel, and everybody evidently assumes I'm a guest, even though I just pulled off the I-79 exit and walked in the door. But professional journalism savvy like that will only get me so far . . . hit the tip jar.
OK, a quick trip to the men's room, refill my coffee and grab another donut from the continental breakfast buffet, and then I'm back on the road.
UPDATE: 9:55 a.m.: Just got off the phone with Trooper First Class Don Trosper of the Kentucky State Police, official spokesman for the investigation. Asked if he had any concern over Internet chatter about the Sparkman case, Trooper Trosper said: "It's just speculation and rumors. . . . We concern ourselves with facts."