A Mississippi tea party leader who was arrested in connection with photos posted online of Sen. Thad Cochran's bedridden wife died Friday of an apparent suicide, the man's lawyer said.
Mark Mayfield, 58, was vice chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party and a Central Mississippi Tea Party chairman, according to those organizations' websites.
"This is a terrible tragedy that shouldn't have happened," Mayfield's lawyer, John Reeves, told Reuters.
Madison County Tea Party leader Pat Bruce broke the news in an e-mail at 9.40 a.m. Friday, the Madison County Journal reported.
"MARK MAYFIELD HAS COMMITTED SUICIDE TEN MINUTES AGO. SHOT HIMSELF IN THE HEAD IN HIS GARAGE. FAMILY JUST CALLED ME. OH LORD,,,,OH LORD," Bruce wrote.
Mayfield's death comes after Chris McDaniel, who had the backing of conservative tea party groups, lost a bitterly contested run-off election against Cochran on Tuesday for the Republican Senate nomination. McDaniel had won the primary three weeks earlier but without the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid the run-off.
McDaniel issued this statement on Friday:
"Regardless of recent allegations made against his character, Mark Mayfield was a fine Christian man who was always respectful and kind. He was one of the most polite and humble men I've ever met in politics. He was a loving husband, father, a pillar of his community, and he will be missed. We are saddened by his loss, and we send our thoughts and prayers to his wife, his family and friends."
In an interview with Jackson's Clarion-Ledger newspaper, Bruce blamed police tactics for Mayfield's death. "They killed him," she said. "They sent a SWAT team to his office, six officers, just to arrest him."
Bruce called Mayfield "the finest man I knew."
"I don't know what Mark did, if he made a phone call or sent an email or wanted a picture to be taken or what," Bruce added. "But whatever he did doesn't rise to him deserving to be treated the way he was treated."
She said the arrest had hung over Mayfield, a real estate attorney, and he "remained locked in a world of uncertainty and fear." She said he had lost clients including three large banks.
Mayfield was one of three men accused last month of conspiring with a blogger who was charged with taking photos of Cochran's bedridden wife in her nursing home for use in a political video against the incumbent. Mayfield was charged with conspiracy to photograph someone without permission.
The picture of Rose Cochran, who has suffered from dementia for more than a decade, was briefly posted online in a story alleging that Cochran was having an affair with an aide.
Mississippi's Republican Gov. Phil Bryant issued a statement saying he and wife Deborah were "saddened to hear of the loss of Mark Mayfield."
Bryant added, "He was a long-time friend, and he will be missed. Our prayers go out to his family in this tragic moment."
The case against Mayfield and the other men was due to go before a grand jury next month, WAPT reported. He was granted a $250,000 bail bond at his original hearing and posted a cash bond of $25,000.
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