This story has been updated.
Albertville — Slamming what he called “reckless” reporting and rumors that required his response, Attorney General Steve Marshall confirmed to reporters and community members Wednesday morning that his wife Bridgette Marshall died in Tennessee on Sunday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and that he was on the phone with her before she committed suicide.
Marshall tearfully shared the circumstances he said he believes led to Bridgette’s suicide, including opioid addiction, mental illness, chronic pain and a fear that she was a burden to others.
“I got on the phone with her, and I just talked to a person that had no hope,” Marshall said to those gathered at Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Albertville.
“She said, ‘I don’t have a purpose, and I’m tired. My body is failing me and I don’t know why. I’ve had pain for a long time and I don’t want to endure it anymore, and I’m just a burden,'” he said.
“And I told her how she wasn’t and how she was loved, and as a guy who, professionally, is supposed to be able to convince people with words to do something, I couldn’t reach her,” he said, choking up as he added that his wife asked him on the phone if he wanted to hear her commit suicide, to which he said he responded no, and that she then hung up the phone. Marshall said he called the police and tried to call her back over and over, but she didn’t answer.
WATCH Marshall share the entire story:
His wife’s addiction to opioids, Marshall said, began when she was given prescriptions to help ease the pain of her migraine headaches, which she had suffered from since childhood.
Marshall also detailed his wife’s struggle with manic-depressive disorder and anxiety, which he said was made worse by fears of being in the public eye, where Marshall said she didn’t want to be.
She told him and her parents earlier this year, “‘I can’t take this, I can’t take this,'” Marshall said, “because she felt like, at that point, she was being followed, that folks were watching where she went and where she was going.” Marshall said she was also plagued by worry that malicious writers would find out the extent of her struggle with mental illness and spread it on blogs.
Marshall said these worries caused her to leave Alabama for Murfreesboro, Tenn., “not because she didn’t love her family and that she didn’t love her husband, but because of the way she perceived her life, that was her only option.”
Marshall said he and his wife talked every day and that “every day that conversation ended with ‘I love you,'” adding that she constantly reminded Marshall of the opportunity he had to make a difference as Attorney General.
The Marshalls were together in June for Election night and for her birthday and he said that was the happiest he had seen her in a long time, but for an unknown reason something changed. It became difficult to get in touch with her.
Her health problems began to flare up, including strange new ones such as blisters on her feet, and this past weekend, she agreed to let her parents drive up to her Tenn. apartment to take her to the hospital. At some point Sunday morning, Marshall said she told them, “I won’t be alive when you get here,” which is when they called Marshall and he was able to get on the phone with his wife.
Marshall said he will forever be haunted by wondering what he could have done to prevent his wife’s suicide and whether she would still be alive had he not become attorney general, even though he said when he interviewed for the job, he asked her if she wanted him to do this and that, “She said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ Because she was my biggest supporter and my biggest fan.”
Marshall said his wife was beautiful on the outside and inside, that she was well loved by those who knew her, and that the opportunity to celebrate her life and tell her story was “robbed from us,” even though he and his family hope his speaking out will help others who are suffering.
“Y’all, it’s times like this that I wonder why anybody wants to be in public service, why anybody wants to run for office,” Marshall said. “Because somehow or another it makes others in their lives public, and that’s not fair to them. She didn’t deserve this.”
In closing, Marshall shared a touching letter Bridgette left for him the last time they were together after the June election, in which she wrote: “Steve, I knew you would pull this off and was a great birthday gift I knew was coming. You are the man for the job in Alabama. I love you more than you’ll ever know and I know you’ll handle it as you always do, with grace. I love you. Love, Bridgette.”
Bridgette’s funeral will be held at McRae Funeral Home Chapel in Boaz this Friday at 10 a.m. with visitation at the same location Thursday from 5-8 p.m.
The Marshall family is asking that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, 408 Martling Road, Albertville, AL 35951 where Mrs. Marshall was a volunteer.
Marshall did not take questions and did not talk about his run-off campaign for attorney general; however, Yellowhammer News has confirmed with a senior member of his office that Marshall will stay in the race.
Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a writer living in Alabama
Jeremy Beaman contributed to this report.