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Mississippi lawmaker dead in apparent suicide: police

By Emily Le Coz

JACKSON, Mississippi (Reuters) - A Mississippi lawmaker died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at the home of a former state legislator, police said on Monday.

State Representative Jessica Upshaw, 53, was found dead on Sunday at former Representative Clinton Rotenberry Jr.'s home in Mendenhall, a suburb of the capital city of Jackson, said Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain.

He said Upshaw appeared to have shot herself in the head and that her death was under investigation by the Simpson County Sheriff's Department and the state investigation bureau.

"The medical examiner will conduct an autopsy," Strain said. "At this point, it's premature to discuss anything further."

Upshaw, a Republican from the coastal city of Diamondhead, had served in the state legislature since 2004, according to the Mississippi Legislature's website. She also worked as an attorney.

Rotenberry lost his seat in 2007. In an interview with WLBT TV news, Rotenberry, who is divorced, said he and Upshaw had been dating.

Upshaw's body was found at the entrance to the home's garage, the Clarion-Ledger newspaper reported, citing Simpson County Sheriff Kenneth Lewis. The sheriff did not return calls from Reuters seeking comment on Monday.

Upshaw was the fifth Mississippi legislator to die since November. The circumstances of the other four deaths did not lead to investigations.

"I have known Jessica for many years as an unselfish and dedicated public servant," Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said. "This is a tragic loss for her family and all Mississippians and our thoughts and prayers go out to her family during this difficult time."

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Kevin Gray and Andre Grenon)

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