State Politics

Former lawmaker found dead; ex-wife says grand jury was hearing child abuse claims

Former Idaho Rep. Brandon Hixon’s legislative photo, left, and mugshot from an Ada County DUI arrest in December 2017.
Former Idaho Rep. Brandon Hixon’s legislative photo, left, and mugshot from an Ada County DUI arrest in December 2017.

The former wife of an Idaho state lawmaker who shot and killed himself this week says he was under investigation for molesting two girls, including a young female relative who was abused for more than 10 years.

Danielle Eirvin Hixon’s comments, made to the Associated Press and the Statesman on Wednesday, followed a public statement Tuesday night about the alleged abuse by her ex-husband, former Rep. Brandon Hixon. “I had no idea it was happening,” the Boise woman said, adding that the girl who told her “kept it quiet for so long.”

The public claims upset other family members. Brandon Hixon’s sister, Kayle Olson, told the Statesman she was shocked by the level of detail in the overnight statement.

“Danielle has brought forth many allegations. She has put the minor children on the front line of this tragic battle when they should have not ever been,” said Olson, of Nampa. “This should have remained private and not exposed by her in the manner it has been.”

No one involved in investigating the matter was willing to publicly address the allegations Wednesday to the Statesman. The AP and the Statesman generally do not name alleged victims of sexual abuse.

Brandon Hixon, 36, was found dead in his home in Caldwell on Tuesday from a single gunshot wound, the Canyon County Coroner’s Office said.

Former colleagues at the Idaho Statehouse have offered kind words about him. But Danielle Eirvin Hixon, who was married to the former lawmaker for 10 years until their divorce in 2016, said the suicide robbed her family’s hopes of finding justice and closure though the legal system. She told police about the abuse, she said.

“Brandon made people believe that he was a stand-up, morally correct person,” she said. “But behind the house walls, he would cheat on me and molested children.”

The three-term Republican had resigned from the Legislature in October after news emerged that he was the subject of a criminal investigation involving possible sexual abuse. No details were made public at that time.

Scott Graf, spokesman for Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, said Wasden’s office had no comment Wednesday on the investigation. The Attorney General’s Office took over the investigation at Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor’s request because of an undisclosed conflict of interest.

His ex-wife said investigators told her not to disclose details about the case until charges were filed against her ex-husband. But, she said, the reason to keep the information confidential ended with his suicide. She said she and two other people had been scheduled to testify before a grand jury on Wednesday. She showed the Statesman a copy of her grand jury subpoena.

Brandon Hixon’s defense attorney, Gabe McCarthy, told the Statesman he was unaware if there was going to be a grand jury hearing, and that prosecutors never notify defense attorneys if an indictment is planned.

The second alleged victim was not related to the lawmaker, Danielle Eirvin Hixon said, adding that she learned about that girl from the girl’s mother.

Danielle Eirvin Hixon said comments by lawmakers praising her ex-husband’s character prompted her to speak up about the abuse allegations. She said she wanted people to know her side of the story.

“I say he was a coward by taking the easy way out,” she said of his suicide.

Olson criticized the ex-wife for “already running to the press” amid the family’s fresh grief. She said her family is asking for privacy.

“This is a sealed case with minors involved and the children need to be thought of first, which she has completely failed to do,” Olson said.

“... The family is grieving. We would wish that everyone respect that at this time. This has been a very tragic and devastating case for everyone involved. It is very real for us. It is not a joke to us. Somebody is dead.”

Danielle Eirvin Hixon told the Statesman she had asked one of the victims, now a teen, “for her opinion. Everything I have said I have okayed with her.”

McCarthy, the attorney, said Wednesday that being a public figure under investigation takes “a terrible toll” and that it was “tragic” that Brandon Hixon’s death came before the judicial process even began, allowing Hixon to offer defense.

In the month leading up to his death, Hixon was arrested twice on suspicion of driving under the influence, on Dec. 9 and Dec. 30. In the second incident, Hixon was not under the influence of alcohol but failed a roadside sobriety test, Caldwell Police Capt. Devin Riley told the Statesman Wednesday. Riley said he was unsure what kind of substance Hixon was under the influence of and could not speculate without lab results.

Records released since October also show that Brandon Hixon was previously the focus of a separate police investigation in 2014. He was accused of inappropriately touching a different child, people familiar with the matter told the Statesman, but records show charges were never brought because the victim was not able to provide enough details. Brandon Hixon denied the accusations and told police he was worried they would harm his political career.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, a Republican, has said the chamber is planning on offering some sort of financial support to the ex-lawmaker’s family.

The Statesman’s Ruth Brown contributed.

IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN EMOTIONAL CRISIS

Call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

Warning signs to watch for:

▪ Talking about wanting to die.

▪ Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

▪ Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

▪ Talking about being a burden to others.

▪ Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.

▪ Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly.

▪ Sleeping too little or too much.

▪ Withdrawing or isolating themselves.

▪ Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

▪ Extreme mood swings.

OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP

▪ Do not leave the person alone.

▪ Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.

▪ Listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.

▪ Be nonjudgmental. Don’t debate. Don’t lecture on the value of life.

▪ Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.

▪ Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.

▪ Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.

▪ Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.

▪ Get help by calling the hotline or visiting Suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Source: Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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