A Mississippi man, missing since earlier this month, was found hanging from a tree half a mile away from his home yesterday (March 19), according to CBS News.
The Claiborne Country chapter of the NAACP identified him as 54-year-old Otis Byrd, although authorities will not be confirming identity until an autopsy has been performed.
An investigation is ongoing to determine whether or not this was a suicide, homicide, or the latter linked to a hate crime.
According to FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jason Pack, Byrd was reported missing by his family a few days after he was last seen on March 2. The Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office and the Mississippi State Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks were searching for Byrd when they found his body in the woods.
MDWFP spokesman Jim Walker said in a statement that the body showed “obvious” signs of decomposition.
“We are calling on federal authorities to immediately investigate the hanging death of Mr. Otis Byrd to determine whether or not his death is the result of a hate crime,” NAACP Mississippi State Conference President Derrick Johnson said in a statement.
The victim has a criminal record; he was imprisoned in 1980 for killing a woman during a robbery, and was paroled in 2006.
The FBI, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are all participating in the investigation.