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Coroner: Accused state lawmaker’s death is apparent suicide

With friends and family standing behind him, Kentucky state Rep. Dan Johnson addresses the public from his church on Dec. 12, 2017, regarding allegations that he sexually abused a teenager after a New Year's party in 2013, in Louisville, Ky. Johnson said a woman's claim that he sexually assaulted her in 2013 has no merit and he will not resign. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) (Caption amended by RNS)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Dan Johnson, a Republican state lawmaker in Kentucky who defiantly denied allegations that he sexually assaulted a teenage girl in the basement of his home, died in an apparent suicide, the county coroner said.

The sexual assault accusations came amid a sexual harassment scandal involving other Republican lawmakers that unfolded at the state Capitol.

Bullitt County Coroner Dave Billings said Johnson died of a single gunshot wound Wednesday night (Dec. 13) on a road in Mount Washington, Ky. Billings said Johnson stopped his car at the end of a bridge in a secluded area, then got out and walked to the front of the car. He said an autopsy is scheduled for Thursday morning.

“I would say it is probably suicide,” he said.

Johnson was elected to the state Legislature in 2016, part of a wave of Republican victories that gave the GOP control of the Kentucky House of Representatives for the first time in nearly 100 years. He won his election despite Republican leaders’ urging him to drop out of the race after local media reported on some of his Facebook posts comparing Barack and Michelle Obama to monkeys.

The pastor of Heart of Fire church in Louisville, Johnson sponsored a number of bills having to do with religious liberty and teaching the Bible in public schools. But he was mostly out of the spotlight until Monday, when the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an account from a woman saying Johnson sexually assaulted her in the basement of his home in 2013.

At the time, the woman told police, who investigated the incident but closed the case and did not file charges.

On Tuesday, Johnson held a news conference in the pulpit of his church, which he began by leading friends and family in singing a portion of the Christmas carol “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The 57-year-old said the allegations against him were “totally false” and said they were part of a nationwide strategy of defeating conservative Republicans. He referenced Republican Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, who faces accusations of sexual misconduct from multiple women.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Johnson posted a message on his Facebook page that asked people to care for his wife. He wrote that PTSD “is a sickness that will take my life, I cannot handle it any longer. It has won this life, BUT HEAVEN IS MY HOME.” The post appears to have been removed.

Michael Skoler, president of Louisville Public Media, which owns the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, said everyone at the organization is “deeply sad.”

“Our aim, as always, is to provide the public with fact-based, unbiased reporting and hold public officials accountable for their actions,” Skoler said. “As part of our process, we reached out to Representative Johnson numerous times over the course of a seven-month investigation. He declined requests to talk about our findings.”

The sexual assault accusations against Johnson were revealed as a sexual harassment scandal involving four other Republican lawmakers was unfolding at the state Capitol. Former Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover resigned his leadership position after acknowledging he secretly settled a sexual harassment claim with a member of his staff. Three other lawmakers were involved in the settlement, and all lost their committee chairmanships.

“I am very sad over the passing of Rep. Dan Johnson. Over the past few weeks in some of the darkest days of my life, he reached out to me, encouraged me, and prayed for me,” Hoover posted on his Twitter account Wednesday night.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin posted on his Twitter account that “my heart breaks for his family tonight.”

“These are heavy days in Frankfort and in America,” Bevin posted. “May God indeed shed His grace on us all. … We sure need it.”

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The Associated Press

20 Comments

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  • Coward…Dan Johnson couldn’t accept the consequences of his hate, lies, crimes and hypocrisy…if only this was an isolated case…but sadly, Johnson is a typical product of evangelical Christianity.

    Thank you Louisville Public Media and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting for exposing this monster.

  • If more sexual predators in government were capable of even that little scintilla of shame and followed suit, I would raise no opposition to their efforts.

  • “The sexual assault accusations against Johnson were revealed as a sexual harassment scandal involving four other Republican lawmakers was unfolding at the state Capitol. Former Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover resigned his leadership position after acknowledging he secretly settled a sexual harassment claim with a member of his staff. Three other lawmakers were involved in the settlement, and all lost their committee chairmanships.”
    Family values and bible believing Christians, every one of them, I am sure.

  • So you think suicide is the answer to these situations? I’m not sure the bereaved families would agree.

  • Completely irrelevant, but I know you will appreciate this.
    Old hippy to Christian rocker:
    You’re not making Christianity better. You’re making rock and roll worse.

  • What is really missing is some light with reference to the PTSD reference he made – commonly associated with suicide in veterans

  • Isn’t suicide haram? Isn’t the believer supposed to trust in god to sort out the details? Would a righteous believer who knew he had committed no wrong endanger the fate of his eternal soul?

  • “With friends and family standing behind him, Kentucky state Rep. Dan Johnson addresses the public from his church on Dec. 12, 2017, regarding allegations that he sexually abused a teenager after a New Year’s party in 2013, in Louisville, Ky. Johnson said a woman’s claim that he sexually assaulted her in 2013 has no merit and he will not resign.”

    Well, he didn’t resign did he. What you claim either builds your character or reveals your character.

  • And your solution is? Coverups like what has gone on for centuries? I too feel sad for the families, but quite often they are in denial of the truth, that truth being their is nothing Christian about their behavior.

  • Going there are you. I’m a vet with PTSD and have gone through some very rough times and am still here. Bottom line he could not face the consequences of his actions.

  • Not really – just curious given that no one else has committed suicide. But suicide rates in veterans is quite high relative to others who haven’t seen combat. So 3 options really – committed suicide because couln’t fact the music, or did so out of guilt, shame through this being public or he killed himself because of the PtSD. Googled him briefly and saw no mention of military service. so had really wondered about that statement.

  • Sorry that I missed your reply, Stan. Sounds as though you ARE favoring suicide as the solution. Like I said, I think the surviving family members (not to mention many social service workers) would heavily disagree with you.

    If Dan Johnson’s previous denials were actually true, he should have kept on fighting the accusation. Suicide is like admitting you’re guilty of the accusations (and your surviving family will take the brunt of those whispers.)

    If he was guilty, he should have admitted it and taken his punishment. But people gotta be encouraged to own up without crushing one’s loved ones with suicide. And don’t forget, umm, he said he had PTSD.

  • floydlee you are an ignorant and arrogant fool twisting the words of others to fit your warped belief system.

  • He wasn’t a vet. He claimed to have worked at 9/11 Ground Zero as a chaplain, but the Kentucky story casts serious doubt on that.

  • Read no other information for inferring occupational or social indicators as a likely cause of claimed PtSD. so I guessed that military duty might be an explanation.

    And unfortunately it can be a big deal if not addressed/managed well. Too frequnetly have heard of attitudes to ‘man up’ or ‘comes with the territory’.

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