Tea party leader arrested in Miss. Senate race scandal commits suicide

A Mississippi tea party leader who was arrested in May for conspiring to photograph the ailing wife of Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., in her nursing home died of an apparent suicide on Friday, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.

The body of Mark Mayfield, a lawyer and vice chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party, was found Friday morning in the garage of his home outside Jackson, Miss., according to the Associated Press. Local police chief Jimmy Houston said a gun was found nearby, and that a suicide note was found at the scene.

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

Gov. Phil Bryant, R-Miss., extended his condolences in a statement.

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

Mayfield was one of three people charged last month with aiding conservative blogger Clayton Kelly's quest to sneak into the nursing home and photograph Cochran's wife Rose.

The photograph appeared in a political attack video targeting Cochran, who was facing a tea party challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, in a primary election at the time. After besting the senator in the first round of voting, McDaniel was narrowly defeated by Cochran in a runoff on Tuesday, though he has not yet conceded the race, citing possible election irregularities.

The nursing home episode, one of several bizarre stories involving McDaniel supporters, threw a late monkey wrench into the primary election, which was closely watched by national groups as a marker of the strength of the conservative grassroots.