Mississippi State Rep. Jessica Upshaw was found dead on Sunday of an apparent suicide. The Republican lawmaker, 53, is believed to have shot herself in the head at a house in Mendenhall.
Simpson County Sheriff Kenneth Lewis spoke of the gunshot wound to WLBT-TV. “It appeared to be self-inflicted," he said.
Lewis told the Clarion Ledger that Upshaw was found at the home of former state Rep. Clint Rotenberry, 60, who was first elected to the House in 1992. Rotenberry has not been charged with any crime.
“She’s passed; that’s all I know at this point,” said Simpson County Coroner Terry Tutor said. “I’ve given it to MBI. They’re doing their investigation on it.”
Warren Strain, spokesman for the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI), said the death did not appear to be natural.
“The crime scene unit is processing the residence, and the investigators are conducting interviews and following leads," Strain said. "It would be premature to make any statement regarding the investigation at this point."
Upshaw, who was chairwoman of the Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, represented Hancock and Harrison counties since 2004.
“I have known Jessica for many years as an unselfish and dedicated public servant,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement. “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.”
She was the fifth legislator lost in Mississippi this year. The others, two representatives and two senators, died of natural causes.
“Once again this session, the House has been touched by tragedy,” House Speaker Philip Gunn, D-Clinton, said in a statement. “Rep. Jessica Upshaw was an outstanding legislator and friend. She was one of the brightest and most competent members of the House.”
Outside of the House, Upshaw was affiliated with Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames, and the Orange Grove/Lyman Chamber of Commerce.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear colleague Representative Jessica Upshaw,” said House minority leader Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto. “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.”