Community Politics

Bullitt County is reeling after the suicide of state Rep. Dan Johnson Wednesday night.

Johnson’s death came two days after the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting revealed he lied about his resume, was a suspect in a church arson and allegedly molested a teen in the basement of his church.

News of his suicide has made national and international news.

Johnson was a freshman Republican lawmaker and preacher from Mt. Washington in Bullitt County.

On Tuesday, Johnson denied the allegations and said he would not resign. By Wednesday night, he was dead.

Bullitt County Sheriff spokesman Mike Murdoch said his dispatcher received a call around 7:00 that evening. A family member found Johnson in a rural area of Bullitt County. Murdoch said Johnson had apparently shot himself with a 40-caliber handgun.

“I think there’s a very dark cloud over Bullitt County,” said Jennifer Stepp, who preceded Johnson as the GOP nominee for the 49th House district seat.

“What happened last night was never the outcome that anyone that was involved in any of these reports anticipated, nor was it anything that anyone wanted,” she said.

At the Lights On Bar and Grill, a Mt. Washington restaurant Johnson used to frequent, WAVE-3 News spoke to people who knew Johnson.

“He was a very interesting guy to talk to, very involved in his community and the church,” Mark Seymour said. “I would not have expected him to do something like that at all.”

“I didn’t always agree with certain things he did, but he was a human being and we have to respect that and respect his family,” restaurant owner Tom Chamberlain told WAVE-3.

Linda Belcher, the Democrat incumbent Johnson beat in 2016, said she was shocked by the news.

“I’m very sorry for his family,” she said.

Bullitt County Judge-Executive Melanie Roberts issued a statement saying, “I am deeply saddened by this tragic event and my prayers are with his family and loved ones.”

Eleanor Klibanoff covered Rust Belt decline and revival in Pennsylvania. She also worked for NPR and attended the George Washington University.