Autopsy results pending in case of black man found hanging in Mississippi

Autopsy results pending in case of black man found hanging in Mississippi
The stand of trees where Otis Byrd was found hanging in Claiborne County, Miss. (Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times)

Autopsy results are pending as law enforcement officials continue to investigate the death of Otis Byrd, found last week hanging from a tree in Port Gibson, Miss., the sheriff said Monday.

Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas said officials were waiting for state autopsy results before issuing a formal ruling on the death of Byrd, whose body was found Thursday within half a mile of his home.


Relatives and civil rights leaders have called for a thorough investigation to rule out the possibility of a hate crime.

"We don't know when the results will be coming," Lucas said Monday.

Sources have told the Los Angeles Times that investigators are leaning toward the possibility of suicide.

Byrd, 54, was found with a bed sheet wrapped around his neck with no other visible signs of distress on his body, Lucas said. His hands and feet were not bound, his mouth was not gagged, and there were no other outward signs of injuries.

Lucas said no note was found on the body, and authorities have not heard of any threats against Byrd, who was convicted of murder in 1980. He got out of prison in 2006.

Byrd, a riverboat employee, was last seen about March 2 when he and a family member visited a casino. Lucas said Byrd returned home with someone else, whom the sheriff identified as a friend.

The discovery of the body stunned the small town of Port Gibson, southwest of Jackson.

The Claiborne County Sheriff's Department and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks located the body in the woods.

The FBI is leading the investigation into a possible hate crime.


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