Thursday, October 1, 2009

UPDATE: 'Neither confirm nor deny'

Stopped here on my way back from Kentucky to check on the blog and update the latest on the Sparkman murder investigation. The most important development is that law enforcement officials are coming under increased pressure either to solve the case or to start explaining why they haven't solved it.

There is evidently a killer or killers at large in eastern Kentucky. Given the brutal nature of Bill Sparkman's death, the particularly stubborn official insistence on a "neither confirm nor deny" stance toward key details of the case is beginning to annoy people in Clay and Laurel counties, including public officials.

Because I'm once again using the lobby computer at a hotel -- the new Holiday Inn Express here beside the I-79 exit is very nice -- and because my wife is already angry at my delayed return, there is only time for a brief update, highlighting key points.

  • First, I don't know if this has been reported anywhere else, but according to today's edition of the Manchester (Ky.) Enterprise, Kentucky State Police and other investigators re-visited the Hoskins Cemetery last Friday, Sept. 25. According to the Enterprise, investigators thoroughly re-examined the remote Clay County site, about 12 miles east of Manchester, where Sparkman's body was found Sept. 12. And, of course, officials refused to confirm that report. However, if the Enterprise staff doesn't know what goes on in that neck of the woods, nobody does.
  • Second, Sparkman's 19-year-old son Josh -- whom Sparkman adopted as an infant -- is furious that police are refusing to rule out suicide as a cause of his father's death. However, the state medical examiner has officially confirmed that Sparkman died of asphyxiation.
  • Third, readers interested in this case should be aware that many people in east Kentucky are angry at the Associated Press -- and whoever the AP's source was -- for an article last week which the Kentucky State Police spokesman, Don Trosper, has characterized as "misinformation" that is "damaging to our investigation."
It is strongly suspected that this misinformation came from a U.S. Justice Department source, either in Washington or Louisville. Considering that it is because of the FBI's involvement that other officials are under "marching orders" not to discuss the case, if the AP's bad source was federal . . .

Well, perhaps I don't need to point out the irony: The feds are, on the one hand, big-dogging the investigation and forbidding anyone else from talking about it while, on the other hand, some federal source is feeding wrong information to the AP. At least, that's the very strong suspicion of people familiar with the situation.

Tempus fugits, and I really need to get home -- we're a one-car family, and my wife needs to go buy groceries -- but I want to take a minute to address a recent troll problem here. Some persistently "anonymous" critic has repeatedly attempted to leave comments derogating my reporting abilities. At one point, this critic accused me of being a "cub" reporter.

How many times do I have to repeat myself about this? Just because you don't know what I'm doing, don't assume that I don't know what I'm doing. I've got a file folder full of notes. I've got photos and recorded interviews. I've got the phone numbers of plenty of sources. There are sources I've interviewed whom I have neither named nor quoted, and there are good reasons for everything I've done or haven't done in covering this story.

Because I've sometimes used my personal blog to highlight particular incidents or personalities -- like Kentucky's most amazing journalist, Morgan Bowling -- does not mean that this is The Big Story. What I've tried to do is to give readers some insight into how I do my job and the wonderful people I've met along the way.

Considering that it has now been 20 days since Sparkman's body was discovered, there is the distinct possibility that this investigation won't produce The Big Story for a long time, if ever. (Remember that Morgan Bowling's father was gunned down 16 years ago, a crime that is still a cold case in the files of the Kentucky State Police.)

Which is to say I didn't feel any real competitive pressure in recent days, so I've done the blog updates as I have, rather than trying to "chase" other media. Yet because of the depth of my work during my first reporting trip to East Kentucky, I'll be ready when The Big Story breaks. Also, I've talked to other journalists -- as a matter of fact, I just got off the phone with one long-time associate whom I won't name -- who might like to come along on my next trip to Clay County.

So, to our anonymous troll, I would like to explain that you don't know what tips I've checked out, or how I've checked them out. Those reports that a journalist rocked the house Wednesday during karaoke at a pub in Richmond, Ky.? That the man who sang a Hank Thompson classic made inquiries which led him to the vicinity of Main and Limestone streets in Lexington, Ky., in the wee hours this morning?

Sorry. I can neither confirm nor deny.

PS.: Yes, I know the headline says "murder," and the police say they haven't ruled out other causes. But reasonable people can conclude that when a man is found dead, blindfolded, gagged and bound with duct tape -- naked except for his socks -- suicide and accident are nearly as far-fetched as "natural causes." Somebody killed Bill Sparkman, and excuse me for not pretending we don't know that. This is my personal blog, so please feel free to convene the Blogger Ethics Committee and expel me from the club.


  1. Thanks for the Update Stacy.
    Nathan C.

  2. I've got a file folder full of notes. I've got photos and recorded interviews. I've got the phone numbers of plenty of sources. There are sources I've interviewed whom I have neither named nor quoted, and there are good reasons for everything I've done or haven't done in covering this story.

    What?? You mean you don't share everything on this blog?? You mean there's more to your work than what we read here? Oh, the humanity!! < /sarcasm >

    Kudos again for doing some much-needed work on the ground, Stacy. Have a safe drive home.

  3. Stacy,

    I hit the tip jar the other day because of the entertainment that I derive from your blog - I come here for your humorous anecdotes, historical references, Rule 5 fun, and eviscerations of megalomaniacal, pony-tailed wanna-be bloggers.

    The fact that I also find keen political insight and hard-hitting journalism (IG-Gate etc...) in between is a bonus!

    I have enjoyed your dispatches from Appalachia and look forward to future posts regarding the evolving Sparkman investigation.

  4. Stacy,

    Thanks for providing us with more than just words, but a real sense of what the people and their lives are like in this part of Kentucky. You've added real "humanity" to the story.

    Ad rem

  5. I admire your attempts to lay some logic on Plouffe's Troll Patrol, but there will always be another "concern" or circular line of questioning reg. your efforts and/or credentials. They're not really here to get answers, and surely don't care who's right, as long as they can stir-up enough doubt and throw some sand in our eyes.

    These guys get sent-out by Organizing for America to piss all over specific stories, and on specific blogs... recall the fusillade they laid on Dan Riehl and TOMc when you guys started getting to the bottom of the Jesse Griffith story.

    Maybe somebody at the DNC doesn't like what you're up to this time either, Stacy...

  6. I disagree with your conclusion that it is obvious that it is murder. We don't know all the details of the crime scene. And I've certainly seen enough case studies on incidents that were mis-identified or initially appeared to be homicides but turned out to be either suicides or AEA. While I can understand that it is frustrating for the family, it's better for the KSP to do a through investigation.

  7. Stacy, I second what Reaganite Republican, El Cerdo Ignatius, Eric Popoff, and Anonymous at 03:37 PM wrote.

    Stop feeling that you have to respond to the Lefties out there who are hurling calumnies at you and your professional conduct and your abilities. Those of us who know you and your work through this site and elsewhere are the only ones you need concern yourself with. We'll handle the bastards.


  8. It is too bad you aren't making this trip in a couple of weeks. The drive though the rolling hills of Kentucky in the fall is worth doing just for the fun of it. It is beautiful country, some of the most amazing landscapes in America. Good people too, despite what the AP says.

  9. Mad King Charles gets used like a 10 cent whore-

    Get some screen captures before MKC deletes all of it. CJ used to be a birther!

  10. Keep up the good work, I've enjoyed reading about your trip. And since when are ethics part of blogging anyway?

  11. I use to be a fan of LGF.I believed him when he said you're a white supremacist.I checked you out about a week ago and to my suprise i found out your not.

    I felt stupid. Than i took LGF off my favs list and added you.Glad i found you.

    Why hasn't the coroner ruled Sparkman's death a homicide? Could he/she be waiting on the toxicology results?

  12. "Why hasn't the coroner ruled Sparkman's death a homicide? Could he/she be waiting on the toxicology results?"

    Who knows? They're not saying anything. The possibility of some kind of bizarre bondage scene gone horribly and accidentally wrong, with the "fed" scrawl as a red herring to throw the cops off the scent?

    I understand that they cannot technically, legally rule out anything that is actually possible. They don't know what they don't know. But of course, they've got to be investigating it as murder. Many things are possible, but the reality of the situation -- the federal ID badge duct-taped to his neck, his body found right at the peak of the local marijuana harvest -- points very strongly in exactly one direction.

    Among other possibilities, we have to seriously consider the possibility that Sparkman's death will never be solved. Saturday will be three weeks since his body was found, and the case grows colder every day. Without fingerprints or other clear forensic proof, unless they get a confession from somebody, it's not looking particularly hopeful for justice right now.

  13. R.S., I would suggest you don't address the trolls in a post. It elevates them in their own minds.

  14. The Kentucky State Police wouldn't recognize the truth if it was typewritten and handed to them on a silver platter. Mr. Sparkman ran into a monster's meth lab (or pot field) and he/they brutally and sadistically murdered the innocent man just for fun. That is what sick, evil people do to get their jollies and they probably drank beer and laughed the entire time they were doing it. The KSP are probably too busy trying to pry into Mr. Sparkman's entire life, his medical history, and his privacy, just to see if they can find anything to poke a hole into the poor man's OBVIOUS murder. It is what it is...Mr. Sparkman was tortured and murdered because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time and he ran into the wrong people. I just wish someone would find the monster who did this and take him out.