FBI awaiting autopsy on black man found hanged; He was ‘very adamant that he would never take his own life’

Otis Byrd
Otis Byrd

PORT GIBSON, Miss. (AP) — Roughly a dozen people gathered Monday in downtown Port Gibson, Mississippi, to show support the family of a back man found hanging.

Otis Byrd, 54, was found Thursday, hanging from by a sheet from a tree in a rural area outside Port Gibson, a small town near the Mississippi River.

The gathering was in support for Byrd’s family, though his relatives did not attend.

The FBI is consulting with its behavioral analysis unit as it continues investigating.

Jason Pack, supervisory special agent for the FBI’s Jackson, Mississippi, office, said Monday that it could be days before investigators receive an autopsy report for Byrd. The report is expected to show whether Byrd was killed or committed suicide.

Officials have said 30 state, local and federal investigators are on the case.

Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas Sr. said Friday that Byrd’s hands were not bound and it appeared Byrd had not stepped off anything.

Elmo Cooper and Darrell Noble, who graduated from Port Gibson High School in 1978 with Byrd, said they believe he would not have taken his own life.

Byrd served about 26 years in prison after being convicted of killing a store owner in Claiborne County in 1980. Noble said Byrd reconnected with friends and adjusted well after leaving prison. He said Byrd attended class reunions in 2008 and 2013.

Cooper says when he and Byrd were in high school, they would talk about what they’d do if something terrible ever happened in their lives.

“He was very adamant, very adamant that he would never take his own life,” Cooper said.