Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall opened up at a news conference Wednesday about his wife’s suicide last weekend following a longtime struggle with mental illness.
Marshall said he felt compelled to address the tragedy to stop “half-truths” about his wife’s death and also to share her story in the hopes that it might help other families and individuals who have struggled with mental illness and suicide know they are not alone.
He said his wife suffered major depressive disorder and anxiety, often finding the limelight that accompanied his life of public service to be overbearing and feared her longtime struggles would be exposed.
"For me, I wonder whether or not if I wasn't attorney general, would she still be alive?"
Since childhood, Bridgette Gentry Marshall, 45, had suffered chronic migraines that led to an addiction to prescription opioids and unsuccessful stints in rehab, WAFF-TV reported. She also had illnesses that caused physical pain, including a digestive disorder that required a feeding tube.
A female relative in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where Bridgette Marshall was staying, called police at 7:46 a.m. Sunday after the attorney general's wife was found dead on a couch, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, AL.com reported.
"For me, I wonder whether or not if I wasn't attorney general, would she still be alive?" Marshall said. "Whether I hadn't chosen public service, would she still be here today? And I'll be haunted by that for the rest of my life."
Marshall, 53, was named the state's attorney general in February 2017 after the state’s former top lawyer, Luther Strange, moved to the U.S. Senate, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. Marshall was campaigning for a full term in the position.
Marshall said his wife’s personal struggle had led her to take some time away in Murfreesboro. When Bridgette returned home for the June 5 primary election and her birthday, Marshall said they saw a “happiness” in her that had been lost for a while.
“And then for whatever reason something changed and we don't know what," he said.
In their final phone call, Marshall recalled his wife telling him: “I'm tired of being tired and I just want to go.”
"I told her how she was loved. As a guy who professionally is supposed to convince people with words to do something, I couldn't reach her," Marshall said, sobbing.
"You are the man for the job in Alabama. I love you more than you will ever know and couldn't be more proud how you handled it all as you always do with grace."
Marshall then requested privacy for his 20-year-old daughter, saying both he and she needed time to mourn after their loss.
He concluded by reading a loving note his wife had written for him two weeks before her death, where she encouraged his pursuit of the attorney general’s office.
"Steve, I knew you would pull this off," the note said. "It was a great birthday gift I knew was coming. You are the man for the job in Alabama. I love you more than you will ever know and couldn't be more proud how you handled it all as you always do with grace. I love you. Love, Bridgette."
"That is the woman I will celebrate. ... Please allow us to celebrate that life and to no longer have to discuss her death," Marshall said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.