Kentucky state Rep. Dan Johnson speaks during a news conference outside the Bullitt County courthouse in Shepherdsville, Ky.
Updated: December 14, 2017 4:07 PM ET | Originally published: December 14, 2017 2:34 PM EST

After Kentucky State Rep. Dan Johnson died Wednesday in an apparent suicide amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a teenager, politicians in the state called for kindness and an end to “nasty, vulgar comments” about Johnson’s death.

The allegations against Johnson surfaced in an investigation published by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. Maranda Richmond, who did not respond to TIME’s request for comment on Thursday, told the news organization that Johnson molested her on New Year’s Eve in 2012 when he was a pastor at the Heart of Fire Church. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting said it corroborated her account with her family members, Facebook messages she sent to Johnson and notes from her therapist.

Richmond said that she reported the incident to the Louisville police in 2013. Police investigated the matter, but never pressed charges. Louisville police did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

After the allegations broke, Kentucky lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for Johnson to resign. At a press conference on Tuesday, Johnson denied the allegations and vowed to stay in the Kentucky House of Representatives. He was found dead on Wednesday night.

Paul Ham, the chairman of the Bullit County GOP, criticized the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting in a Thursday interview with the Washington Post.

“The story was based on hearsay: no arrest, no conviction, no jail time,” he said. “Back when the Constitution meant something, a man could stand before a jury of his peers. But now, it’s just, ‘Let’s just make some accusations and run with it.’ We’re in a very bad place.”

Others, like Republican Reps. Wesley Morgan and Jeff Hoover, seemed to echo Ham’s sentiment. Hoover resigned as the House’s Speaker last month (but kept his seat in the chamber) following allegations of sexual harassment, which he denied.

Michael Skoler, the president of Louisville Public Media, which owns the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, said that it was “deeply sad” over Johnson’s death, but noted that Johnson had declined their numerous requests to speak about Richmond’s allegations.

Democratic Rep. Attica Scott expressed sympathy for Johnson’s family and Richmond.

Other state lawmakers called for kindness in the wake of Johnson’s death.

On Thursday afternoon, Johnson’s widow said she wanted to take his seat in the Kentucky House.



More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Samantha Cooney at

You May Also Like