BILL SPARKMAN’S GRUESOME DEATH…. As details emerge on the death of the slain Census worker in Kentucky, the story appears to be even more tragic than first reported.

Bill Sparkman juggled three part-time jobs and chemotherapy, and he was conscientious about keeping his schedule straight. So when he didn’t show up for work at a day-care program Sept. 10, two days after he went out canvassing residents for the Census Bureau, a co-worker reported him missing.

Sparkman’s body was found two days later beside a remote road near a small family cemetery in the Daniel Boone National Forest. His death initially garnered little attention, even in eastern Kentucky.

Then authorities revealed this week that a noose was found around his neck, and that he was hanging from a tree, his feet touching the ground. The word “Fed” was scrawled across the 51-year-old census taker’s chest, according to the Clay County coroner.

Officials said Sparkman’s body was found with his Census Bureau identification card taped to his head. An AP report added that he was “naked, gagged and had his hands and feet bound with duct tape.”

As was the case earlier in the week, it’s still worth emphasizing that this is an open investigation and additional information is needed before reaching any conclusions. Some of the earlier details have proven false — Sparkman was not, for example, found hanging from a tree, as some initial reports suggested — and our understanding of what actually happened may yet change again.

That said, what we’ve learned thus far is gruesome, and continues to raise the prospect of what may have been a politically-motivated slaying. Faiz Shakir added, “Regardless of what the motive for the killing may have been, why would a murderer(s) take such pains to so blatantly convey anger, fear, and vitriol towards a Census employee? Perhaps because some on the right have created an impression that Census employees are terrifying.”

The record on that front is clear — Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Glenn Beck, and Neal Boortz have invested considerable energy in trying to convince confused, right-wing activists that the Census and those who work for the Census Bureau are not to be trusted, and may even be dangerous.

Here’s hoping that their reckless and irresponsible rhetoric did not have deadly consequences.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.