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Police suspect suicide in death of tea party official charged over photos of US senator's wife

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FILE - In this May 22, 2014 photograph, Mark Mayfield, right, a member of the board of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, and attorney John Reeves, left, listen as Mayfield's attorney Merrida Coxwell, center, responds to questions from city Judge Dale Danks in Madison, Miss., city court, during an initial court appearance. Mayfield, 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, June 27, 2014, police said, days after Cochran won a nasty Republican primary. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

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FILE - In this May 22, 2014 photograph, Mark Mayfield, right, a member of the board of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, and attorney John Reeves, left, listen as Mayfield's attorney Merrida Coxwell, center, responds to questions from city Judge Dale Danks in Madison, Miss., city court, during an initial court appearance. Mayfield, 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, June 27, 2014, police said, days after Cochran won a nasty Republican primary. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

RIDGELAND, Miss. - An official with the conservative tea party movement who was charged with conspiring to take photos of a longtime Mississippi senator's wife inside a nursing home apparently killed himself Friday, police said, days after the senator won a nasty Republican primary election.

The body of attorney Mark Mayfield was found Friday in the garage of his home. A gun was found nearby, Ridgeland Police Chief Jimmy Houston said.

Houston said 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 and three other men were arrested last month and face various charges of conspiring to photograph Sen. Thad Cochran's wife, Rose, in the nursing 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 photographed 72-year-old Rose Cochran without permission on Easter Sunday. The photos were later used briefly in an anti-Cochran political video posted briefly online during the Republican primary.

All four of the men charged were supporters of state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who lost Tuesday's Republican runoff. Mayfield was 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. 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," McDaniel said.

Janis Lane, president of the board of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, said she had not seen Mayfield since he was charged in the nursing home photo plot, 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.

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