Mississippi Lawmaker Found Dead in Home of Former Colleague

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 25 2013 11:54 AM

Mississippi Lawmaker Found Dead in Home of Former Colleague

Mississippi state flag

Photo by Bill Colgin/Getty Images

A Mississippi state legislator was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday. But no one seems to know the reason Jessica Upshaw, a 53-year-old Republican representative, allegedly took her own life or why her body was found in the home of former state Rep. Clint Rotenberry.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation officials are currently investigating her death, although there have been no arrests yet. A spokesperson for the MBI told the paper that it was too "premature" to make any official statement on the investigation at this point. Simpson County Sheriff Kenneth Lewis, meanwhile, told WLBT-TV that the single gunshot wound that killed Upshaw "appeared to be self-inflicted." That's pretty much all we know so far—details are sparse at this point.


Upshaw had served in the state legislature since 2004. She was the chair of the Conservation and Natural Resources Committee. She was single. Her daughter, son-in-law, and young grandson live in South Korea but had recently visited Upshaw in Mississippi, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

According to WJTV, Upshaw is the third state legislator to die this session. That explains the first sentence of state House Speaker Phillip Gunn's statement on Upshaw's death, via WLOX:

Once again this Session, the House has been touched by tragedy. Representative Jessica Upshaw was an outstanding legislator and friend. She was one of the brightest and most competent members of the House. Our hearts break for her family, and our prayers go out to them during this tragic time.

Rotenberry was defeated in the 2007 primaries by J. Andrew Gipson, who has represented the 77th district since then. He'd been a state representative since 1992. He is married, but the Clarion-Ledger notes that his wife is listed at a separate number.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.


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