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Kentucky Lawmaker Dies in ‘Probable Suicide’ After Sexual Abuse Allegations

Dan Johnson, a Republican state lawmaker in Kentucky, died on Wednesday night by “probable suicide,” two days after allegations surfaced that he had sexually abused a teenage girl at the church where he served as pastor.

Bullitt County Sheriff Donnie Tinnell said that the 57-year-old likely killed himself on Wednesday night on a bridge in Mt. Washington, Kentucky, reports Louisville station WDRB-TV. The county coroner said Johnson was found with a single gunshot wound to the head.

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Just a day earlier, the Kentucky lawmaker had refused to resign as he faced accusations that he had molested a member of his church when she was 17, the Washington Post reports.

The claims surfaced in a Monday report by The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting (KCIR). A woman, a friend of Johnson’s daughter at the time of the alleged assault, told the investigative site that Johnson had molested her after a New Year’s party in 2012 in the basement of his church. According to KCIR, Johnson allegedly groped and forcibly kissed the woman and penetrated her with his finger. USA Today reports that in 2013 the woman reported the incident to police, who investigated it and closed the case without filing charges.

Johnson denied the accusation.

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Following the publication of the KCIR report, Republican and Democratic leaders issued swift calls for Johnson’s resignation. At a press conference Tuesday morning, Johnson said that he wouldn’t step down.

Handout photo of Kentucky state Representative Dan Johnson (R-KY)
Johnson, who was facing sexual assault accusations, died in a probable suicide on December 13, 2017.HANDOUT REUTERS
Handout via Reuters

“I don’t want to blast this girl, I have a lot of compassion for her,” he said. “I’m very sorrowful that she’s in this dark place in her life.”

In the early evening of Wednesday, Johnson posted on Facebook shortly before his death, stating that the allegations were not true and asking people to care for his wife. He wrote that post-traumatic stress disorder “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 appeared to be taken down shortly after.

The accusations against Johnson came as a sexual harassment scandal involving four other Republican state lawmakers unfolded in Kentucky. USA Today reports former Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover resigned from his leadership position after acknowledging a secret settlement with a member of his staff. Three other lawmakers were involved in the settlement, and all lost their committee chairmanships.