The hanging victim is said to be Otis Byrd, who went missing after a trip to the casino March 2.
Authorities are probing a hanging in Claiborne County, officials said.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jason Pack said the FBI and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are on the scene where a man’s body was found hanging in the woods near Old Rodney Road.
It is unclear if the death is a homicide or a suicide, as Coroner J.W. Mallett would not release any details, stating the death is under investigation.
The Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department, the MBI, and the Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks were conducting a ground search earlier Thursday for Otis Byrd, 54, who has been missing since March 2.
Sheriff Marvin Lucas said that’s when they found the body hanging about a half mile from his last known residence around 10:21 a.m. Thursday. He said during the search for Byrd, they never ruled out that he could have met with foul play.
“We didn’t close down any options because we really didn’t know what had happened to him,” Lucas said. “We can’t rule anything out right now.”
The sheriff’s department contacted the FBI for forensic and investigative assistance.
The last time Byrd was seen, a friend was dropping him off at the Riverwalk Casino in Vicksburg on March 2.
Byrd’s family filed a missing persons report with the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department on March 8, and MBI received a missing report from the Claiborne County on March 13.
The NAACP was the first organization to release Byrd’s identity. So far officials have not confirmed that the body hanging not far from Byrd’s last home, which was found during a search for him, is Byrd. The NAACP wrote a letter asking the DOJ to get involved in the investigation.
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.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is referring all calls to the FBI. The Mississippi Southern District of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division are also assisting on the case.
Investigators are processing the scene now to determine the cause and manner of death.
This story is developing. Check back for more as details unfold.
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