FBI Investigates Hanging Death of Black Man in Mississippi Whether it's homicide or suicide is unclear By John Johnson, Newser Staff Posted Mar 19, 2015 6:51 PM CDT 62 comments Comments Otis James Byrd (Mississippi Department of Corrections) (Newser) – The FBI is investigating the death of a black man in Mississippi whose body was found hanging from a tree. Authorities aren't saying yet whether they think it's a homicide or a suicide, reports msnewsnow.com. It was the NAACP that identified the victim as 54-year-old Otis Byrd, who has been missing March 2. The group also asked the Justice Department to join the investigation with the FBI and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. The body was found in the woods near Byrd's rural home in Claiborne County, hanged by a noose made of bed sheets. His family confirmed the identification. “This is a small town, everybody knows everybody,” Byrd's father tells the Los Angeles Times. Byrd served about 25 years in prison for the murder of a woman he robbed in 1980, reports the Clarion-Ledger. He was released on parole in 2006.