FORT SUMNER, N.M. (AP) — A deputy who could have been the second female sheriff in New Mexico history has died.
Officials said De Baca County sheriff’s Deputy Mylessa Denny was found unresponsive lying in the parking lot of the sheriff’s office in Fort Sumner after getting off from work late Tuesday. She was pronounced dead at Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis, according to representatives for the hospital, the New Mexico State Police and the state Office for the Medical Investigator.
State police Sgt. Damyan Brown said preliminary indications are that Denny had a “medical episode,” but the medical investigator’s office will conduct an autopsy to determine cause of death.
“At this time no foul play is suspected,” Brown said.
Operations Director Amy Boule, of the medical investigator’s office, said autopsy results may take several months if toxicology tests are needed.
Denny, a 39-year-old Army veteran, defeated incumbent Sheriff Dennis Cleaver in the June Democratic primary. Another deputy has since filed to run as a write-in candidate in the November general election.
According to New Mexico election law, county Democratic Party officials will appoint a candidate to replace Denny on the general election ballot.
If elected, Denny would have been New Mexico’s second female sheriff, said Jack LeVick, executive director of the New Mexico sheriffs’ association.
Hidalgo County voters in 1966 elected Doris McCarty as sheriff after her husband’s consecutive terms prevented him from running again.
“She took care of the office and he took care of the crooks,” LeVick said of McCarty and her husband.
When she was stricken, Denny had just completed her shift at the sheriff’s office at about 4 p.m., Sheriff Dennis Cleaver said.
A detention officer noticed Denny lying on the pavement and went to her aid.
“It’s a terrible shock for our department and our community,” Cleaver said.
Denny had told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/WhmWxs ) that her decision to run for sheriff had nothing to do with making history or proving a point.
“I am openly gay, which is kind of odd for a small town,” Denny said. “I believe you should run on how well you can do the job and not the fact that you are male, female or gay.”
In announcing her candidacy, she promised better training and education for deputies, technology upgrades and improved relations between the community and the sheriff’s office.