Only three days after Tea Partier Chris McDaniel lost a high-profile runoff election in Mississippi, an ardent McDaniel supporter and Mississippi tea party leader, Mark Mayfield, died of apparent suicide. The shocking death comes a month after Mayfield was arrested on charges of conspiracy, having allegedly been involved in a plan to take pictures of Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife at her nursing home.
According to the the Clarion-Ledger, police found Mayfield on Friday morning, after responding to a 9 a.m. 911 call made by Mayfield’s wife, Robin. The 57-year-old politician was apparently lying in a storage cabinet in the garage of his home, with a single gunshot wound in his head. There was a large caliber revolver beside him, as well as a suicide note. "Because all of the indications, it appears to be suicide, but we still got some things to look into," Ridgeland police Chief Jimmy Houston told CNN. "He left a suicide note, and we are verifying its validity."
Mayfield, a lawyer and leader of the Mississippi Tea Party, made headlines back in May after he was accused of being part of a plan to smear Sen. Thad Cochran in the lead-up to the high-tension runoff elections in Mississippi. The plan, carried out by a McDaniel supporter called Clayton Kelly, involved sneaking into a nursing home to take photos of Cochran's wife — who suffers from dementia —in her nursing home bed. Mayfield, along with three others, was arrested on May 22 and charged with conspiracy.
Though the reasons for Mayfield's apparent suicide remain unknown, certain politicians have already taken to Twitter to suggest that the accusations against Mayfield are to blame. Keith Plunkett, policy director for McDaniel, said in an impassioned, now-deleted Tweet: "A good man is gone today bc of a campaign to destroy lives.To all ‘so called’ Republican leaders who joined lockstep: I WILL NOT REST!”
Said Janis Lane, president of the board of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, according to the Clarion-Ledger:
He was the finest man, and all the allegations against him — I can tell you — were false. He was a man of integrity, and all these allegations destroyed him, just destroyed him.Mark Mayfield put his life on the line for this state and for this country. He is the highest caliber patriot you could ever find.
Other politicians, though — including Cochran's office— have expressed their condolences. "This is very much a tragic and sad situation," said Austin Barbour, a senior adviser to Cochran's campaign, according to CNN. "Mark was a really good guy. On behalf of Sen. Cochran and all of us for the campaign, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his friends."