Homicide, suicide, hate crime or revenge? Those are some of the questions that will be circling around the discovery of the body of an African-American man hanging from a tree in Claiborne County, Mississippi.
Otis Byrd was reported missing on March
2nd8th after being dropped off at a casino earlier that day on March 2nd. The discovery was made on property adjacent to Byrd's last known residence. While the family and NAACP are saying the body was Byrd, authorities have not yet confirmed that information.
According to a press conference held by the FBI and the Claiborne County Sheriff's Dept., the body was found with a bed sheet tied around the neck and a skull cap on the head, hanging from a tree. The hands were not tied behind back. The body was not discovered on family property, but was found at 10:21 am, 500 yards southwest of a house belonging to family members of Byrd. The incident has not been confirmed as a homicide or suicide.
If it is Byrd, there is much, much more to the story than we know right now.
According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Byrd spent a little over 25 years in prison for the Feb. 1980 murder of Lucille Trim in Claiborne County. Records show he robbed her of $101. He was convicted of capital murder on October 28, 1980, and was paroled Nov. 2, 2006.
Trim is the mother of Martha Rainville, the first woman in the history of the National Guard to serve as a State Adjutant General when she became Adjutant General in Vermont in 1997. Rainville currently lives in Virginia and is married to the Hon. Paul McHale, a former congressman from Pennsylvania and a former Assistant Secretary of Defense.
Whatever has happened here, it seems that there is a very strong possibility that Byrd did not tie himself up in a bedsheet to that tree. If that's the case, then lynching would appear to be making a comeback.
I'll add details as they're available.
Update: According to the LA Times, the person they found was Byrd.
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The nephew said the family had been told by police that Byrd's hands had been tied, but he had worked them free and tried to loosen the noose. But that could not be confirmed by authorities, who declined to release details.
At this point, “we don’t know if it’s suicide or homicide,” said Jason Pack, supervisory special agent for the FBI in Mississippi.