By Stephen A. Crockett Jr.,

The body of a black man believed to be Otis Byrd was found hanging from a tree. Byrd served 25 years in prison for reportedly robbing and killing a woman.

A 2014 photograph of Otis Byrd.

A 2014 photograph of Otis Byrd.

On March 2 a friend dropped off Otis Byrd at the Riverwalk Casino in Vicksburg, Miss. On March 8, members of the Byrd family reported the 54-year-old missing. On Thursday, Claiborne County, Miss., authorities found a man’s body, believed to be Byrd’s, hanged from a tree by a bed sheet, causing many in the area to wonder whether the hanging was a homicide and, if so, whether it could be retaliation for a killing some 25 years ago.

Authorities have not confirmed the man’s identity, but the Claiborne County NAACP and family members have said that it was Byrd…

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jason Pack told CNN that the man’s hands were not bound and that he was wearing a skull cap. It’s unclear whether the hanging was a suicide or a homicide. “We don’t know what happened out there—if it is a suicide, a homicide. That is why we investigate these types of cases to determine exactly what happened,” he said.

The Byrd family and the state NAACP are calling for a full investigation into the death. “Considering Mr. Byrd’s body was found hanging from a tree, we are calling on federal authorities to immediately investigate to determine whether his death is a result of a racial hate crime,” Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, told the Clarion-Ledger…

“The sheriff’s department contacted the [Mississippi Bureau of Investigation] and FBI for forensic and investigative assistance. Investigators are currently processing the scene for evidence to determine the cause and manner of death,” according to the FBI.

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