Ex-Idaho lawmaker facing sex-abuse inquiry kills himself

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former Republican state lawmaker from Idaho who was facing a sexual abuse investigation has shot and killed himself, authorities said Tuesday.

Brandon Hixon was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in his home early Tuesday, Canyon County Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris said. A family member discovered his body.

Officials have released no details about the criminal investigation into Hixon, 36, except that it was related to possible sexual abuse. Records obtained by The Associated Press show that he was previously the focus of a separate police investigation in 2014 after being accused of inappropriate touching.

At the time, Hixon denied the accusations and told police he was worried they would harm his political career. It’s unknown if the new investigation, ongoing since Oct. 5, was connected to the earlier case.

The attorney general’s office was overseeing the investigation but declined to comment Tuesday.

Hixon’s death comes after Kentucky lawmaker Dan Johnson shot and killed himself last year after a report was published detailing allegations that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl in his basement in 2013. He had denied the accusations.

Hixon was elected in 2012, becoming one of the youngest lawmakers to win a seat in the Idaho House of Representatives. He didn’t stand out during his time in the Statehouse until he abruptly resigned in October after the sexual abuse investigation emerged.

“I hope that my efforts have helped improve the lives of my constituents in District 10, as well as all Idahoans,” Hixon wrote in his resignation letter. “I will never forget all of my colleagues that I very much enjoyed working side by side with to make Idaho a better place for all.”

After stepping down, Hixon was arrested twice for drunken driving and was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest last month.

Hixon, who got a divorce from his wife in 2016, is survived by his four children, ages 6 to 17.

Across the country, sexual harassment allegations have surfaced in government, entertainment and business, leading to resignations and policy changes. In Idaho, legislative leaders are expected to unveil in the 2018 legislative session new policies for reporting sexual misconduct for lawmakers, lobbyists, staffers and other aides.

Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke announced Hixon’s suicide to lawmakers during Tuesday’s floor session. The House chaplain led a prayer.

“We should support those who are close to us when they are struggling,” Bedke said. “Please remember Brandon’s family in your prayers.”

Bedke later said the House will likely organize financial help for Hixon’s family but that it was too early to say what exactly was planned.

Other lawmakers also offered condolences.

“I wish I had followed the promptings I received and called with words of kindness and encouragement,” Republican state Rep. Bryan Zollinger said in a tweet. “Reminder to us all to love one another despite differences of opinion.”

Others said they were shocked by Hixon’s death.

“I didn’t always agree with Rep. Hixon, but I could work with and talk to him,” Democratic state Rep. John McCrostie said in a tweet. “Hope you find some peace, Brandon. Condolences and prayers to his family including his children.”