A prominent leader of the Mississippi Tea Party who was arrested in connection with photos posted online of U.S. Senator Thad Cochran's bedridden wife died on Friday of an apparent suicide, the man's lawyer said.

US Senate Mississippi

Attorney Mark Mayfield, a Mississippi tea party official, was accused of conspiring with a conservative blogger to use photographs of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran's ill wife to push allegations that the longtime Republican senator was involved in an inappropriate relationship with another woman. (Madison Police Department/Associated Press)

Mark Mayfield, 58, was vice chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party and a Central Mississippi Tea Party chairperson, according to those organizations' websites.

"This is a terrible tragedy that shouldn't have happened," Mayfield's lawyer, John Reeves, told Reuters.

Ridgeland, Mississippi Police Chief Jimmy Houston says the body of attorney Mark Mayfield was found Friday morning at his home in a gated community outside Jackson.

Houston says Mayfield had been shot, and a suicide note was found.

Mayfield was one of three men accused last month of conspiring with a blogger who was charged with taking photos of Cochran's bedridden wife in her nursing home for use in a political video against the incumbent. Mayfield was charged with conspiracy to photograph someone without permission.

Mayfield's death comes after Chris McDaniel, who had the backing of conservative Tea Party groups, lost a bitterly contested election against Cochran on Tuesday for the Republican Senate nomination.

Reeves said the criminal case against Mayfield was still in the early stages.

with files from AP