Mississippi State Rep. Jessica Upshaw was found dead from a single gunshot to the head at the house of a former colleague in the state house on Sunday afternoon, according to the Jackson Clarion Ledger. Her death is now being investigated by officials with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. WJTV News Channel 12 confirmed the cause of death with Mendenhall Police Chief Alexander McCullum. Upshaw was the chair of the state's Conservation and Natural Resources Committee.
The Ledger's Therese Apel reports the 53-year-old Upshaw was found at the Jackson home of former State Rep. Clint Rotenberry on Sunday. Rotenberry served in the state Legislature for District 77 until he lost a run-off election in 2007. Upshaw was first elected to Mississippi's District 95 in 2004. It's unclear why she was at Rottenberry's home, but Apel points out that Rotenberry's wife has a separate house registered under her name and that Upshaw was single. Rotenberry and Upshaw were both Republicans.
There's no indication yet whether it was murder or suicide, but details are ultimately pretty sketchy right now. "We can’t really call what happened yet. I don't know if it’s a suicide or what," Simpson County Sheriff Kenneth Lewis told the Ledger. [Update, Monday 11:05 a.m.: Upshaw's death is expected to be ruled a suicide. "It appeared to be self-inflicted," Lewis told WLBT-TV.]
Upshaw's death shocked the her fellow state Representatives. "I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear colleague Representative Jessica Upshaw," Rep. Bobby Moak told the Ledger. "Jessica was a fixture in her seat on the back row of the chamber where she passionately championed causes for her district and the state. This is an instance where replacement is not possible. Jessica will be sorely missed." WJTV has a roundup of Twitter reactions from Upshaw's fellow lawmakers, which were more emotional than some of the more scandalous reactions beginning to crawl onto social media Sunday night. WLOX has the statement from Mississippi's Governor Phil Bryant:
"Deborah and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Rep. Jessica Upshaw. I have known Jessica for many years as an unselfish and dedicated public servant. This is a tragic loss for her family and all Mississippians, and our thoughts and prayers go out to her family during this difficult time."
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