Mark Mayfield, a member of the board of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, right, listens as his attorney Merrida Coxwell, center, responds to questions, May 22, 2014, during an initial court appearance.
Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Mississippi tea party activist charged in Cochran break-in found dead


Mark Mayfield, a leading tea party activist in Mississippi who was indicted in an alleged plot to break into a nursing home to film Sen. Thad Cochran’s ailing wife, has died, according to multiple reports. 

According to NBC station WMC-TV, Ridgeland, Miss. police say they are investigating the case as a suicide after Mayfield was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home. 

Mayfield, an attorney, sat on the board of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, where he helped organize conservative support for state Sen. Chris McDaniel in his effort to defeat Mississippi Sen. Cochran in the Republican primary. He was arrested in May and indicted along with two other conservative activists as part of a widening probe after a 28-year old blogger, Clayton Kelly, allegedly entered a nursing home and filmed Cochran’s wife Rose, who reportedly suffers from dementia, for an attack video. 

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant issued a statement to the press honoring Mayfield shortly after the news broke.

“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,” Bryant said. 

McDaniel spokesman Keith Plunkett lashed out on Twitter after the news broke. “A good man is gone today [because] of a campaign to destroy lives,” a tweet on Plunkett’s feed read. “To all ‘so called’ Republican leaders who joined lockstep: I WILL NOT REST!” He later deleted the tweet. 

Reached by e-mail, Plunkett told msnbc that Mayfield was “as level-headed and deliberate a person as I have ever met, never prone to histrionics” and that his alleged involvement in the nursing home incident was “out of character.”

“The politicization of the incident was beyond the pale. It was an attack on a good man that is well respected. I’ve never met a person that had a bad word to say about him,” Plunkett said.

He added: “Mark’s calm approach to political disagreement is what this state needs badly right now.”

McDaniel also praised Mayfield in a post on Facebook.

“Regardless of recent allegations made against his character, Mark Mayfield was a fine Christian man who was always respectful and kind,” he wrote. “He was one of the most polite and humble men I’ve ever met in politics.” 

Austin Barbour, a top adviser for Cochran’s campaign, told msnbc Mayfield’s death was “very tragic.”

“He was a good guy and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” Barbour said.

Cochran won a runoff election against McDaniel on June 24 after a brutally fought campaign. McDaniel has yet to concede and has accused the other side of illegally relying on Democratic votes to win the race.

Mississippi tea party activist charged in Cochran break-in found dead