Former political candidate found dead at mother's Lexington home

Police say Vanderpool shot himself

jhewlett@herald-leader.comJuly 14, 2011 

Matthew Vanderpool

Matthew D. Vanderpool, who lost a bid for the 45th District state House of Representatives seat last fall, was pronounced dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head early Wednesday, several hours after Lexington police responded to a call about a suicidal man at 812 Wheatcroft Court.

Authorities went to the address after a man who lives out of state called police about 9:40 p.m. Tuesday, saying his son was having suicidal thoughts and had a gun, Lexington police Lt. Rodney Sherrod said.

When police arrived at the home, near Russell Cave Road and Interstate 75/64, they heard a gunshot coming from inside the home and a window break in the garage, Sherrod said.

Police evacuated neighbors and used a phone and a bullhorn to try to make contact with whoever was inside.

Vanderpool, 26, was later found in the garage, Lexington police Lt. Raymond Roller said.

Fayette County chief deputy coroner Miles White said the coroner's office was called at 12:49 a.m. Wednesday. Vanderpool was pronounced dead about a half-hour later. White said the Wheatcroft Court address is the home of Vanderpool's mother.

At 7:36 p.m. Tuesday on Facebook, Vanderpool reminisced about his life and his friends.

"I have friends that are by my side like security at a presidential debate," he wrote. "They protect me from not only others, but from myself. We have shared some crazy times, happy times, sad times and times that we will never forget ... one because the video camera won't let us and two because that is who we are as friends. My friends are my family."

Vanderpool closed the note by saying, "I've just been looking back today at some of the things I have done and started a list of the things I want to do! Just writing thoughts I guess."

Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation, who shared an apartment in Lexington with Vanderpool, said: "He was happy, and he wasn't having any problems that I'm aware of. He was a wonderful public figure and a wonderful person to talk to."

Palmer, who managed Vanderpool's House seat campaign, said Vanderpool had an open mind about everything and all points of view.

Palmer, who has another home in Hazard, drove to Lexington on Wednesday after receiving a call about Vanderpool's death from state Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo of Lexington, he said.

Palmer said he had talked to Vanderpool by phone a couple of days before his death and didn't notice anything wrong with his friend.

Vanderpool, who was openly gay, was at the Kentucky Equality Federation's booth during last month's Lexington Pride Festival, a celebration of Central Kentucky's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, Palmer said.

"He begged me to go to the after-parties," Palmer said.

Vanderpool and his mother drove to Hazard in June to protest the expulsion of two gay men with mental disabilities from a city-owned swimming pool, he said.

"He had a strong sense of what was right and wrong," Palmer said. He also said that he and his friend didn't always agree on politics but could "always find mutual ground."

Vanderpool, a Democrat, defeated Michael Coblenz, a patent lawyer and Air Force veteran, in the May 2010 45th District primary. Vanderpool raised only $150 for the campaign, and he said he didn't buy a single yard sign or advertisement. Coblenz raised $6,000.

In the November general election, Vanderpool received 6,217 votes to Republican incumbent Stan Lee's 13,135. During the race, Vanderpool said he was a "worker" and Lee was an "ideologue."

"We have lost a very promising young man, and we offer our deepest sympathy to Matthew's family and friends," said Fayette County Democratic Party chairwoman Brenda P. McClanahan, who is a member of the state executive committee.

Vanderpool, a Lexington native, was a customer-service representative for Tempur-Pedic, a disaster-relief specialist for the American Red Cross and a member of the Young Democrats.

Survivors include his parents, Thomas Vanderpool of Corbin and Judy Kovacs of Lexington; his stepmother, Brenda Vanderpool of Corbin; his stepfather, Doug Kovacs of Lexington; and a brother, Justin Vanderpool.

A memorial service will be at 6 p.m. Saturday at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home on Harrodsburg Road. Visitation will be after 4 p.m. Saturday at the funeral home. Memorial gifts are suggested to the Lexington chapter of the American Red Cross.

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

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