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The case of missing a Mississippi Black man has ended in tragedy after his body was discovered hanging from a tree Thursday (Mar. 19) evening. Otis Byrd, 54, was reported missing near the top of the month and his death has sparked an investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department.

According to several breaking reports, including accounts by CNN and CBS, Byrd had been missing since March 2. Local authorities in Claiborne County discovered Byrd’s hanging body after conducting a ground search. It is too soon to determine whether or not Byrd’s death was a homicide or self-inflicted.

According to the Clarion-Ledger, Byrd went missing after a trip to the casino on March 2 and the family didn’t report him missing until six days later. The Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department received the report that day, with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation receiving the report on March 13.

More from the Clarion-Ledger:

Sheriff Marvin Lucas said that’s when they found the body hanging about a half mile from his last known residence around 10:21 a.m. Thursday. He said during the search for Byrd, they never ruled out that he could have met with foul play.

“We didn’t close down any options because we really didn’t know what had happened to him,” Lucas said. “We can’t rule anything out right now.”

The sheriff’s department contacted the FBI for forensic and investigative assistance.

The last time Byrd was seen, a friend was dropping him off at the Riverwalk Casino in Vicksburg on March 2.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections shared with media outlets that Byrd served 25 years in prison for the 1980 murder of Lucille Trim in Claiborne County. Byrd robbed Trim of $101 in the killing and he was convicted of capital murder in October of that year. Byrd was paroled in November 2006.

The Mississippi Southern District of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division have joined in with the overall investigation.

Photo: MDOC

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