04-30-2017  3:54 am      •     
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AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

(CNN) -- A Mississippi state lawmaker was found dead Sunday at the home of a former colleague, apparently the result of a suicide, a friend close to the victim told CNN on Monday.

The victim is Jessica Upshaw, 53, of Diamondhead, Miss.

A conservative Republican, she'd been a member of the state House of Representatives since 2004 and was chair of the House Conservation and Water Resources Committee.

The incident occurred in Mendenhall, in Simpson County, located in southern Mississippi. Simpson County Coroner Terry Tutor said she died of a single gunshot wound to the head. He didn't elaborate and wouldn't say it was a suicide.

The friend said she killed herself outside the house of former State Rep. Clint Rotenberry.

Rotenberry and Upshaw, both single and divorced for a number of years, had been in a relationship, the friend said. Upshaw had been battling depression for several years and had been taking medication while under a doctor's care.

Describing Upshaw as a fighter, the friend said she had been aggressively battling the depression.

The incident shocked and saddened the state.

Gov. Phil Bryant called Upshaw a "unselfish and dedicated public servant."

"This is a tragic loss for her family and all Mississippians," he said.

Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn described Upshaw as "an outstanding legislator and friend" and said "our hearts break for her family."

"She was one of the brightest and most competent members of the House."

CNN's Brian Todd reported from Washington. CNN's Marlena Baldacci and Joe Sterling reported from Atlanta.

 

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