Tea party official charged in Cochran photos case dies

Visitors enter and leave the home of tea party official Mark Mayfield on Friday in Ridgeland. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Visitors enter and leave the home of tea party official Mark Mayfield on Friday in Ridgeland. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

By Jeff Amy and Emily Wagster Pettus

Associated Press

RIDGELAND – A tea party official charged with conspiring to take photos of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife inside a nursing home apparently committed suicide Friday, police said, days after Cochran won a nasty Republican primary.

The body of attorney Mark Mayfield was found Friday morning in the garage of his two-story, brick home in a gated community outside Jackson. A gun was found nearby, Ridgeland Police Chief Jimmy Houston said. Houston says Mayfield had been shot, and a suicide note was found at the scene.

“Everything we see so far, this appears to be a suicide,” Houston said.

Mayfield’s death came just days after tea party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel was defeated by Cochran in the Republican Senate runoff. Mayfield had been a board member of the Central Mississippi Tea Party and had raised money for McDaniel’s campaign.

Mayfield faced a conspiracy charge, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for a conviction, after allegations he and others conspired to take photos of 72-year-old Rose Cochran at the nursing where she has lived since 2001. The photos were later used in an anti-Cochran political video posted briefly online during the Republican primary.

MAYFIELD

MAYFIELD

An additional weight for Mayfield: Under Mississippi court rules he could have lost his law license if convicted and sentenced.

In a statement Friday, McDaniel, who has denied any connection to the photos, praised Mayfield.

“Regardless of recent allegations made against his character, Mark Mayfield was a fine Christian man who was always respectful and kind. He was one of the most polite and humble men I’ve ever met in politics. He was a loving husband, father, a pillar of his community, and he will be missed. We are saddened by his loss, and we send our thoughts and prayers to his wife, his family and friends,” McDaniel said.

Janis Lane, president of the board of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, said she had not seen Mayfield since he was charged, but had been in contact with him by phone and through text messages. She said Mayfield’s integrity was important to him, and he sounded like he was feeling pressured by the investigation.

“It was truly a challenging time for him,” Lane said, wiping away tears.

Three other men also were arrested last month and face various charges of conspiring to photograph Rose Cochran in the home where she has lived since 2001 with dementia. The Cochran family said she has lost the ability to speak and is receiving hospice care. Police said conservative blogger Clayton Thomas Kelly of Pearl photographed her without permission on Easter Sunday.

In a statement, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant expressed sympathy to the Mayfield family.

“Deborah and I are saddened to hear of the loss of Mark Mayfield. He was a long-time friend, and he will be missed. Our prayers go out to his family in this tragic moment,” wrote Bryant, a Republican.

The Cochran campaign also reacted.

“Obviously, this is a tragic and very sad situation. Mark was a good guy. The senator and all of our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends,” said Austin Barbour, a strategist and spokesman for the campaign.

Other suspects in the photo plot are elementary school teacher Richard Sager of Laurel and John Mary of Hattiesburg, who took over hosting a conservative talk radio show formerly hosted by McDaniel. McDaniel left the radio job before his election to the Mississippi Senate in 2007.

Lane spoke Friday at the Hinds County Courthouse, where she and other McDaniel supporters were examining poll books to look for examples of crossover voting — people who had voted in the June 3 Democratic primary and in Tuesday’s Republican runoff between McDaniel and Cochran.

“He was the finest man,” Lane said. “He was an attorney of impeccable character.”

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Wagster Pettus reported from Jackson.

  • barney fife

    “He was the finest man,” Lane said. “He was an attorney of impeccable character.”
    *
    *
    With one helluva guilty conscience.

  • charlie

    Who would have motive to keep Mr. Mayfield from testifying in a court of law about who ordered the pictures taken, assuming it wasn’t Mr. Mayfield?

  • FrereJocques

    Whatever the truth is, we’ll probably never know it. A dead person, under a cloud of suspicion, and a gun nearby, and they take for granted it was a suicide? Yes I read there was a suicide note–how do they know it’s authentic? He could have been forced to write it. They don’t state ANYTHING about whether the victim’s fingerprints were on the murder weapon, how close to the body the gun was when it was discharged. I am not a cop and I don’t play one on TV, but I’ve watched enough of them to know that a thorough investigation has NOT been done.

    I read an article just the other day, which stated that MS is the most corrupt state in the nation. Not hard to believe, having seen the shenanigans going on here.

    I’m a fair man, I’m willing to wait for the results of the full investigation–if there IS one.

    • guest

      You’ve watched enough TV shows to know a thorough investigation has NOT been done. Are you serious?

      • FrereJocques

        Dead Serious. As I said, I’m waiting for the results of a full investigation before passing judgement.

        They found him in the morning. Story released in the afternoon. Dead man. Charged with conspiracy. Had cohorts in crime. Who have they interviewed? Has the suicide note been analyzed? Fingerprints on weapon? How about video footage–any security cameras? Did his neighbors hear/see anything? His family? A gunshot is going to be heard through the house. No one hear a gunshot? How do they know he wasn’t killed elsewhere and his body dumped at his house? They have obviously not had enough time to do an autopsy. Are they planning to?

        Really easy to say, “He committed suicide” when you don’t want the truth to be known.

        • TWBDB

          I have to agree FJ, there’s no way to have had a thorough investigation even by today let alone yesterday; a preliminary crime scene investigation, yes. One doesn’t need to be a forensic scientist or avid crime TV watcher to know that.

          This is terrible either way. Mr Mayfield may have been involved in something stupid, but so have we all. We tend to be a forgiving people by nature. Of course, to your point FJ, the first step is typically admitting you’ve done something warranting forgiveness in ths first place. It stands to reason somone wouldnt’ agree with that decision.

          Irregarless of what comes out of this, my heart goes out to Mr Mayfield’s loved ones and honestly to him as a victim

          • FrereJocques

            Thank you, TWBDB. I do have sympathies for the man and his family. And if he had done something bad and asked for forgiveness, I could do that. But that isn’t the real issue here. The issue is, why is he dead? Yes, suicide is one possibility, if he just couldn’t live with what he had done. But my gut instinct is that this was no suicide. He knew something, and someone figured that he would spill the beans. And they couldn’t have that. So they did something about it.

        • guest

          I read about it mid morning that day. 911 call was at 930 AM. It was all over the Jackson media. His wife was home and heard the gunshot. She called 911. He was in a storage room in the house. He left a suicide note. Check out the media links from that area. The man had lost his mother earlier this year and was having a hard time with this. That and the circus he got involved in had to have been taking a toll on him. But then again, an NSA or CIA operative could have whacked him to cover up this national scandal of someone taking a picture of someone in a nursing home.

  • 1941641

    It’s rather sad that this seemingly respected man in his community got involved with a group of Tea Party undesirables and their chosen Tea Party political candidate to commit a crime against an elderly woman housed in a nursing home. Well, it’s beyond “sad.” It was headed off a cliff before it even got started good. The lesson in it: the “truth will out” keep your nose clean, always!