On Wednesday night, Kentucky State Rep. Dan Johnson, who was under investigation for allegedly molesting a teenage girl, was found dead of a “probable suicide.” Despite the claims against him, his wife publicly mourned his loss and praised him as a “gift to all who knew him.”
“I Lost the LOVE of MY Life tonight, He was a Gift to ALL who knew him,” Rebecca Johnson posted on Facebook in the wee hours of Thursday morning. “Always Encouraging, Helping others, Giving All he had to give and bringing Joy and Laughter to all he met.”
The bereaved wife concluded her message with a prayer for her husband’s rest: “May My Fighting Irishman have the Rest he wasn’t ever able to get. Rep Danny R Johnson the POPE! We Will Never Be The Same.”
In life, Johnson had called himself the “pope” of the Heart of Fire Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He served as bishop of this nondenominational and evangelical church.
Johnson’s body was found Wednesday night. The Bullitt County coroner said he had perished of a “probable suicide,” local Fox affiliate WDRB reported. Bullitt County Sheriff Donnie Tinnell said the state representative drove onto the bridge over the Salt River on Greenwell Ford Road in Mt. Washington, parked and shot himself in front of his car.
On Monday, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting publicized court documents from 2013 recording an alleged sexual assault. According to the report, Johnson drunkenly kissed and fondled Maranda Richmond, who was 17, on New Year’s Day in 2013. Richmond reported the incident to authorities in April of that year, and the Louisville Metro Police Department opened an investigation but closed it months later without interviewing Johnson.
On Tuesday, Johnson denied the allegations, claiming that Richmond was motivated by his political opponents, CNN reported. “This allegation concerning this young girl absolutely has no merit,” he said. “As a matter of fact, some of this I heard yesterday for the first time as I read the story.”
Louisville detectives reopened the investigation that same day.
Hours before he was found dead, Johnson posted a findal denial of the allegations, and attributed his impending suicide to post-traumatic stress disorder from serving victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
“The accusations from NPR are false GOD and only GOD knows the truth, nothing is the way they make it out to be. AMERICA will not survive this type of judge and jury fake news,” Johnson wrote. “I LOVE GOD and I LOVE MY WIFE, who is the best WIFE in the world,My Love Forever !”
The state rep. concluded his post by asking three things from those who love him: “(1)blame no person,Satan is the accuser, so blame the Devil himself. (2) Forgive and Love everyone especially yourself .(3)most importantly LOVE GOD. P.S. I LOVE MY FRIENDS YOU ARE FAMILY ! GOD LOVES ALL PEOPLE NO MATTER WHAT !”
The coroner said police were alerted after someone saw the Facebook post, and officers pinged his phone, finding his body.
Various public officials mourned Johnson’s death.
“My heart breaks for his family tonight,” Governor Matt Bevin tweeted. “May God indeed shed His grace on us all..,.We sure need it…”
Saddened to hear of tonight’s death of KY Representative Dan Johnson…My heart breaks for his family tonight…These are heavy days in Frankfort and in America…May God indeed shed His grace on us all…We sure need it…
— Governor Matt Bevin (2015-2019) (@GovMattBevin) December 14, 2017
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he and his wife were praying for Johnson’s loved ones.
Just terrible news from Kentucky tonight on the passing of Rep. Dan Johnson. I cannot imagine his pain or the heartbreak his family is dealing with tonight. Kelley and I pray for his loved ones.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) December 14, 2017
Jeff Hoover, the former Kentucky speaker of the House who resigned after sexual assault allegations, joined in. He praised Johnson for having “reached out to me, encouraged me, and prayed for me” during “some of the darkest days of my life.” Hoover also emphasized the principle “innocent until proven guilty” and attacked those who “are self righteous and indignant over mere accusations.”
“All of us at Louisville Public Media are deeply sad to hear that State Representative Dan Johnson has died, apparently of suicide,” Michael Skoler, president of Louisville Public Media, which owns the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, said in a statement.
Skoler noted that the center’s aim in releasing the story was “to provide the public with fact-based, unbiased reporting and hold public officials accountable for their actions.” He insisted that the center reached out to Johnson many times over the course of a seven-month investigation, but he declined requests to comment.
Johnson had caused controversy long before the allegations. He won election to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 2016, even after the Republican Party of Kentucky called for him to drop out of the race for racist comments.
Johnson reportedly posted messages on Facebook talking of white pride and Southern secession, and shared at least three pictures showing President Obama as an ape.
Even after his death, people attacked Johnson on Facebook. His daughter Sarah reported that “as an administrator of my dads Facebook page I get alerted when people comment.”
“He’s gone… stop the hate and disrespect,” the daughter pleaded. “Think of others rather than just yourself. My family is hurting and we don’t want to see your trash!!”