The Los Angeles Times is reporting that preliminary results from an autopsy on the body of Otis Byrd, the man officials found hanging from a tree in Mississippi Thursday, suggests the cause of death was suicide.
Investigators, however, have not yet released Byrd’s official cause of death.
“Everybody wants answers and wants them quickly,” Special FBI agent Don Alway told reporters at an afternoon news conference. “Everybody has heard rumors, but we ask you to hold off.”
“The community deserves answers, the family deserves answers,” said Alway, who met with Byrd’s family before the news conference. Also meeting with the relatives was Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas, who called for prayers on behalf of the Byrd family.
An unnamed official told the Times that early results led investigators to “strongly suggest the death was a suicide rather than foul play.”
“It looks like that,” said the official, who asked not to be identified, adding “that’s where they are headed,” to a finding of suicide. The official declined to give further details.
Byrd had been missing for two weeks. Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas told the Times the 54-year-old man’s hands and feet were not bound and his mouth was not gagged. When officials found him hanging from a tree near his home in Port Gibson, a sheet was wrapped around his neck. A note was not found on his body, the Times reports.
Byrd’s father, Willy Shorter, told authorities he didn’t want to see his son “dangling in the tree, up in the tree handing by his neck.”
“I don’t want to see my son,” Shorter said. “I want to remember him the way I always saw him. I don’t want to remember him hanging from the tree.”
More than 30 law enforcement agents will continue the investigation into Byrd’s death. An official autopsy report is expected to be released next week.