COLUMBUS, OHThe bodies of six U.S. governors were discovered in the Ohio Statehouse early Monday, all apparent participants in what authorities believe to be some sort of statewide-officeholder suicide pact.
Police have identified five members of the media-dubbed "Gubernatorial Six": governors Haley Barbour (R-MS), John Lynch (D-NH), Bill Richardson (D-NM), Ernie Fletcher (R-KY), and Robert "Bob" Taft (R-OH). The identity of the sixth governor is being withheld until his family is notified. Columbus Police Chief James Jackson confirmed rumors that "Governor X," as he is being called, was a male, and governor of "a very large state."
Early toxicology reports indicate that five of the governors died after drinking scotch laced with barbiturates. Gov. Fletcher is believed to have mixed the drug with bourbon and a splash of water.
Discovered by a Statehouse night cleaning crew in the pre-dawn hours, the governors' bodies were arranged in a circular pattern on the floor of the Finan Room. Forensic evidence indicated that Taft, who was found clutching the presidential seal to his chest, was the last one alive, leading police to speculate that he was the ringleader.
"We believe Governor Taft served the executive authorities their final cocktails," Jackson said. "There were no signs of struggle, no attempts to escape. It appears that all participated willingly and sought a common end."
Although the reasons behind the suicide pact remain unknown, many of the country's surviving 44 state chief executives said they are not surprised by the tragedy. The governors were all known in their home states for their penchants for dark suits, their similar hairstyles, and their "fuck everything" attitudes.
"I never really talked to them except when I had to, like during the occasional National Governors' Association meeting," Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said. "They tended to stay away from girls altogether. It's sad to see such bright and promising state-level executives succumb to this senseless rage and self-destruction."
Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, who sometimes socialized with members of the Gubernatorial Six at luncheons, said that although they openly talked of taking their own lives, he never took them seriously.
"They made a lot of bizarre jokes, a lot of dark stuff that I didn't understand," Henry said. "I knew many of them didn't want to be governors anymore, and Bob was always saying how much he hated it, how he felt trapped, how he'd do anything to get out of 'the cage.' The others would pretty much go along with him. The sad thing is, they probably could have done quite well in the private sector."
Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina has been able to provide grieving family members and states with some insight into the actions of the Gubernatorial Six. Sanford, who was briefly associated with the group in 2003, said their suicide came as no surprise to him.
"I was your typical confused, first-term governor," said Sanford, who admits he found the dark, morbid posturing of the outcast governors "cool."
"I had a great deal of respect for Bob [Taft]he lived on the edge, always giving the world the finger," Sanford added.
But by 2004, Sanford had distanced himself from the group.
"Bill [Richardson] had developed this habit of slashing at his arms and chest with his New Mexico flag lapel pin," Sanford said. "And Haley [Barbour] liked asphyxiating himself with his necktie until he turned blue. Not long after I stopped hanging out with them, I found a dead bald eagle on the doorstep of the governor's mansion."
The FBI set up a national hotline Monday and urged voters to call if they suspect that their governor might be contemplating suicide or has joined a gubernatorial cult. Counselors from the National Institute Of Mental Health have been sent to capitols in all 50 states to counsel at-risk and interim governors.