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Authorities: Georgia death that sparked questions ruled a suicide

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ATLANTA — A black man found hanging from a tree in Georgia died by suicide, authorities said Tuesday.

A passerby found the body of Robert Champion, 43, on Monday hanging from a tree in Greensboro, which is about 80 miles east of Atlanta. His feet were touching the ground, and his knees were slightly buckled, said Joe Wooten, special agent in charge with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

“The results of the autopsy are that the manner of death is suicide and the cause of death is hanging,” a press release from the GBI said. ” After a thorough autopsy examination, there was no evidence of any inflicted trauma to Champion’s body.”

Champion was interviewed recently in connection with the death of a woman named Carol Lewis.

It’s unclear what, if any, ties he had to her, and Wooten declined to speculate on whether there could be a connection between their deaths.

When asked to discuss the context of a black man being found hanging in the South, Wooten said that he understands there’s a lot of concern about the case.

“We’re going to be as transparent as we can,” he said. “There’s no other way to be.”

In March, an African-American man was found hanging from a tree in Mississippi with bedsheets around his neck attached to a limb about 15 feet high.

Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas identified that man as Otis Byrd.

“It could take a week, it could take two weeks, it could take months,” Lucas said about determining what happened to Byrd.

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