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Georgia man found hanging from tree committed suicide, officials say

Officials say death of Roosevelt Champion, found hanging from tree in Georgia on Monday, was suicide

The death of a 43-year-old black man found hanged from a tree behind a Georgia home Monday has been ruled a suicide, investigators announced Tuesday.

Roosevelt Champion III, 43, was found dead in the backyard of a home in Greensboro, Ga., his feet touching the ground, officials said.

He was hanging from an orange "ratchet strap" commonly used to move furniture, his knees were slightly buckled and his hands and knees were not bound, said Joe Wooten, a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

A passerby spotted Champion's body Monday morning and called 911, officials said.

An autopsy was completed Tuesday morning, the GBI said in a statement, and Champion's death has been ruled a suicide. The cause of death is hanging.

In a news conference Monday, Wooten had promised transparency as officials examined the hanging death, saying he understood that "there is a lot of concern" about the case.

Champion, who lived in Greensboro, had been interviewed last week as part of a homicide investigation, according to  Wooten, but had not been arrested.

He had been questioned about the death of Carol Renee Edwards Lewis, 54, who was found dead May 2 at her home about three blocks from where Champion's body was discovered Monday, Wooten told the Los Angeles Times.

The two "definitely knew each other," Wooten said, but declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding Lewis' death.

Champion was last seen alive about 11:30 p.m. Sunday at a relative's house, police said.

In a news conference Monday, investigators said there were no signs of foul play. "After a thorough autopsy examination, there was no evidence of any inflicted trauma to Champion's body," the GBI said in a statement Tuesday.

Champion's death is the second high-profile hanging death of a black man in the South in as many months.

In March, Otis Byrd, 54, was found hanging from a tree in the woods near his home in central Mississippi.

Authorities said evidence was leading them to believe Byrd had committed suicide, but his relatives did not agree. Last month, Byrd's family members said they would launch an independent investigation.

Times staff writer Lauren Raab contributed to this report.

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