Kentucky Lawmaker's Wife Speaks Out After His Suicide Amid Sexual Assault Allegation
The wife of a Kentucky state representative who killed himself this week amid allegations that he had molested a teenage girl has spoken out in support of her husband.
“I Lost the LOVE of MY Life tonight, He was a Gift to ALL who knew him,” Rebecca Johnson, wife of Dan Johnson, posted early Thursday on Facebook.
Dan was “Always Encouraging, Helping others, Giving All he had to give and bringing Joy and Laughter to all he met,” Rebecca wrote.
Her post — which was reviewed by PEOPLE — is no longer publicly available and a message left with her was not returned.
The emotional comments were published just one day after Dan, a 57-year-old father of five, drove to a bridge in Mount Washington, Kentucky, parked his car on the north side and then fatally shot himself in the head, authorities have said. His body was found next to his car.
A first-term state representative from Louisville, Dan was facing calls for his resignation before his death. In addition to his work as a politician, Dan served as a church pastor; his congregants called him “The Pope.”
On Monday, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an exposé titled “The Pope’s Long Con” that alleged sexual misconduct by the lawmaker. According to the report, Dan allegedly woke his daughter’s 17-year-old friend early on Jan. 1, 2013, following a New Year’s Eve party, and kissed and groped her.
He denied her allegation at a Tuesday news conference — and was never charged in connection with it, though it was previously reported to police — and he said he would not resign.
“This allegation concerning this lady, this young girl, absolutely has no merit,” he said. “These are unfounded accusations, totally.”
“I don’t want to blast this girl; I have a lot of compassion for her,” Dan said on Tuesday. “I’m very sorrowful that she’s in this dark place in her life.”
Hours before his death, Dan also posted a note on Facebook.
“The accusations are false,” he wrote, in part. “GOD and only GOD knows the truth. Nothing is the way they make it out to be.”
According to the county sheriff, one of Johnson’s followers saw the message and called authorities who tracked his cell phone and found his body.
Officials with Louisville Public Media, whose Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published the reporting about Dan’s sexual assault allegation, said in a statement they were “deeply sad to hear that State Representative Dan Johnson has died, apparently of suicide.”
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“Our aim, as always, is to provide the public with fact-based, unbiased reporting and hold public officials accountable for their actions,” LPM President Michael Skoler said in the statement. “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.”
His wife concluded her message on Thursday by hoping that her husband would find peace.
“May My Fighting Irishman have the Rest he wasn’t ever able to get,” she wrote. “Rep Danny R Johnson the POPE! We Will Never Be The Same.”
Rebecca has also announced she intends to seek election to her husband’s now-vacant seat in the state legislature. In an accompanying news release, she reportedly described Dan’s death as a “high-tech lynching based on lies and half-truths.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).