Otis Byrd, 54, went missing on March 2, after being dropped off at the Riverwalk Casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi. On Thursday, 17 days later, Byrd’s body was found hanging from a tree about a half mile from his house in Claiborne County.
The discovery answered the questions of family members who wondered where Byrd was and who filed a missing persons report with the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department on March 8. But now there are many other questions that have arisen, such as whether Byrd was killed and how his body got in the tree.
A hanging in Mississippi is particularly disturbing because it is the state that had the most lynchings during the 100 years after Reconstruction, with 581 on record, according to statistics compiled by the Tuskegee Institute.
The investigation has been joined by the FBI and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. The local chapter of the NAACP has also asked the Justice Department to join the investigation.
Coroner J.W. Mallett would not release any details on the death, so it isn’t known if authorities are considering it a homicide.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jason Pack told the media that the FBI and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are on the scene where the body was found hanging in the woods near Roddy Road.
Byrd is known to authorities in Claiborne County because he was convicted in 1980 of murdering Lucille Trimm there while robbing her of $101. He served 25 years in prison and was paroled on Nov. 2, 2006.