Mississippi tea party leader Mark Mayfield dead of apparent suicide
By: James Hohmann
June 27, 2014 12:08 PM EDT
Mark Mayfield, a Mississippi tea party leader and lawyer facing charges in connection with taking photos of Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife at her nursing home apparently committed suicide Friday morning.
Police said that Mayfield’s wife, Robin, called 911 just after 9 a.m. to say her husband had shot himself. Officers arrived to find the 57-year-old lying on the floor of a storage room in his garage with a single gunshot wound to the head and a “large caliber revolver” with the body.
Lt. John Neal of the Ridgeland Police Department told POLITICO that there was a note recovered, but he declined to share its contents. He said no foul play is suspected but an autopsy will still be conducted.
Mayfield was arrested on May 22 and charged with conspiracy. The Madison County district attorney alleged that Mayfield, one of four facing charges, gave advice on how to get into the nursing home where Rose Cochran, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, lives. He declined to take the pictures himself, the DA said, but his mother had lived in the facility so he knew the best way in.
Cochran defeated state Sen. Chris McDaniel, whom Mayfield actively supported, in the Republican primary runoff Tuesday.
Authorities arrested him at his law office. Mayfield, who denied the charge, was released after posting a $25,000 cash bond.
His arrest shocked political elites in the state. Mayfield had played a variety of roles inside the party and ran his own law firm in the state capitol of Jackson for more than three decades.
He focused on real estate matters, according to his LinkedIn page, from loan closings to foreclosures. He received a law degree from the University of Mississippi in 1981.
A felony conviction would have been devastating professionally.
Laura Van Overschelde, a friend and fellow tea party activist, said she last saw Mayfield on June 5 at a birthday party for a mutual friend.
“He was still visibly shaken from what had happened to him,” she said, herself shaken over his loss.
Grant Sowell, a leader of the Tupelo Tea Party who has known Mayfield about five years, said he sort of “got cut off from the world” after the arrest. He shut down his Facebook and was upset that the whole scandal might hurt McDaniel’s chances.
Sowell said he called Mayfield a few days after the arrest to encourage him with some Scripture, and Mayfield warned him that the phones could be tapped.
“He said, ‘I’m not guilty of anything,’ but … it gave people a paranoid feeling,” Sowell said.
“Nobody should have died over this,” he added. “It’s just an election. I’m heartbroken by it. … I wish I’d reached out more.”
The nursing home scandal began when conservative blogger Clayton Kelly posted photos online that he allegedly took of Rose Cochran on Easter Sunday. After his arrest, three additional men including Mayfield were arrested for either conspiracy or obstruction. One was a high school soccer coach, and another inherited the conservative talk radio program that McDaniel previously hosted. All the charges are pending. McDaniel’s campaign has denied involvement in the incident.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant issued a statement that he and his wife were saddened by news of Mayfield’s death.
“He was a longtime friend and he will be missed,” the Republican governor said. “Our prayers go out to his family in this tragic moment.”