PORT GIBSON, Miss. — An FBI agent appealed for patience Friday after a black man was found hanging from a tree in Mississippi, saying 30 federal, state and local agents were working intensively to determine whether he was killed or committed suicide.
"Everybody wants answers and wants them quickly. We understand that," FBI Special Agent Don Alway told a crowd outside the Claiborne County Courthouse. "We are going to hold off on coming to any conclusions until the facts take us to a definitive answer."
The county coroner confirmed that the man found hanging from a white sheet Thursday was Otis Byrd, an ex-convict reported missing by his family more than two weeks ago. Byrd lived just 200 yards from where his body was found, in a wooded area off a dirt road that ran behind his house.
Alway said investigators are interviewing Byrd's family and friends and searching his rental home and a storage unit for clues.
"We are trying to paint a picture of Byrd's life. We are trying to find out what was going on with him personally and professionally," he said.
Byrd worked on offshore oil rigs and enjoyed gambling in casinos in his off time after getting out of prison, where he served 26 years for fatally shooting a woman during a robbery in 1980.
Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas Sr. told the Associated Press earlier Friday that Byrd did not appear to have stepped off of anything in the area where he was found hanging from a tree limb about 12 feet high. His feet were dangling about 2 feet off the ground, and his hands were not bound, Lucas said.