Ex-Idaho Lawmaker, at Center of Sex Abuse Investigation, Commits Suicide

by | January 10, 2018 AT 10:30 AM

By Cynthia Sewell And Ruth Brown

Lawmakers already shocked by the criminal investigation into former Rep. Brandon Hixon found themselves stunned anew Tuesday by news of the Caldwell Republican's death.

"We are all asking ourselves what we could have done to help in the lead-up to this," House Speaker Scott Bedke said. "I am at a loss."

Hixon, 36, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to the Canyon County Coroner's Office. A family member found him in his home early Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

He resigned from the Legislature in October after news broke that he was the focus of a criminal investigation by Caldwell police. That inquiry is apparently related to sexual abuse, according to a later request by Canyon County officials for the Idaho Attorney General's Office to take over the investigation.

"I hope that my efforts have helped improve the lives of my constituents in District 10, as well as all Idahoans," Hixon wrote in an email to Bedke and Gov. Butch Otter. "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."

The AG's Office had no comment Tuesday on what now happens to the investigation. Hixon's attorney could not be reached.

Hixon had been in his third term, serving on several House committees focused on business, health care, transportation and defense. He was divorced, with several children. Gov. Butch Otter in November selected Caldwell city planner Jarom Wagoner to replace him.

Authorities have said little about the current allegations against Hixon. But it wasn't the first time he had been investigated. A Caldwell detective in December 2014 looked into a claim that Hixon inappropriately touched someone, possibly a child, according to a partially redacted report the department provided to the Statesman in October. Charges were never brought because the victim involved was not able to provide enough details, the report indicated.

After his resignation, Hixon was arrested twice on suspicion of driving under the influence, on Dec. 9 and Dec. 30, and for resisting arrest the first time when police claimed he refused to pull over and exit his vehicle.

Legislators Tuesday were clearly grappling with Hixon's suicide and the claims against a man whom many of them respected.

Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell and Hixon's former seatmate, said in an email: "No matter what else is learned about the last few months of Mr. Hixon's life, it's clear that there are those today who -- for one reason or another -- are left dealing with a profound and inexpressible hurt, the depths of which I can't fathom. My prayer is that those left to cope in the aftermath will find comfort for their pain and be able to turn to God's healing in the months and years ahead."

"I didn't always agree w/ Rep. Hixon, but I could work with and talk to him. That's seriously a big deal," Rep. John McCrostie, a Democrat from Garden City, said on Twitter. "Hope you find some peace, Brandon."

"Our sympathy, thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends, especially his young son he loved so much," said Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston.

Lawmakers spent part of their afternoon at mandated anti-harassment training. Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, opened the session with his own condolences: "There's a special sorrow in our world today."

Bedke, R-Oakley, announced Hixon's death during Tuesday morning's House session. He later described the House as "a pretty somber place today."

"I think suicide strikes pretty close to home with many of our legislators," he said. "... The Idaho Legislature is a normal cross-section of Idaho. We have all of the same issues in our families and in our businesses and in our personal lives that every other Idahoan has."

And he mused on Hixon's ties to the Legislature. Bedke said in the coming days, the House will discuss doing something meaningful to help Hixon's family.

"I know that at least part of his motivation for resigning his House seat was a love of the institution and a respect for the institution and a respect for his colleagues," Bedke said. "He did not want to overshadow any of the House or its members or its workings during the session."

(c)2018 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)