Otis Byrd Death: Feds Say No Evidence Hanging Was Homicide

Image: Handout of Otis Byrd in Jackson, Mississippi
Otis Byrd, 54, is shown in this undated handout photo provided by the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Byrd's body was found hanging from a tree about a half-mile from his home on March 19.Mississippi Department of Corrections via Reuters

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By Phil Helsel

The Department of Justice on Friday said there is no evidence of foul play in the death of a black man found hanging from a tree in Mississippi in March.

The discovery of the body of Otis James Byrd, 54, in rural Claiborne County evoked old images of Mississippi's history of race-based violence and prompted local authorities to call in the FBI.

"After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that there was no evidence to prove that Byrd's death was a homicide," the Department of Justice said in a statement Friday that also announced its investigation is closed.

Byrd went missing on March 2, and local officials began searching for him a few days later. His body was found hanging from a tree about a half-mile from his home on March 19.

"It was ruled a suicide and we've accepted what they said, and we are on our own and asking God to strengthen us and lead us in the direction we should go," a relative of Byrd's, Florence Byrd, told NBC affiliate WLBT Friday. "That's that. Maybe suicide, we don't know."