FORT SUMNER – The De Baca County Sheriff’s deputy who received statewide attention for her bid to become the first elected female sheriff in New Mexico since the 1960s died suddenly Tuesday of undetermined causes.
Mylessa Denny was pronounced dead just after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis, about two hours after collapsing in the parking lot outside the courthouse. She was 39.
Denny had been assigned to desk duty due to a foot injury and had just completed her shift at the sheriff’s office at about 4 p.m., Sheriff Dennis Cleaver said.
She left the building and apparently collapsed as she was getting into her car. Detention officer Chris Bassler noticed Denny through an open door, lying on the pavement outside her sheriff’s office vehicle, Cleaver said.
Bassler came to Denny’s aid and called the Fort Sumner Ambulance Service. She was transported to Plains Regional Medical Center, where she underwent emergency treatment for more than an hour before she was pronounced dead.
“It’s a terrible shock for our department and our community,” said Cleaver, who was outside the emergency room while Denny was being treated. “I have no idea what happened. I had just gone out (on duty) when I got the call. We’re all in shock.”
“Our sincere condolences go out to Mylessa’s family,” Cleaver said.
Denny, a 39-year-old U.S. Army veteran, told the Journal in a recent interview that her decision to run for sheriff had nothing to do with making history or proving a point.
“I don’t have an agenda,” she said.“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, most important, better relations between the community and the sheriff’s office.
“I feel like I’m a good cop,” she said. “I feel like I’m a fair cop and I feel like that’s what our community needs.”
Denny is survived by her partner, Christi Scovel of Fort Sumner, and two children, Codi Ann Wood, 17, and Calin Wood, 14.
Denny’s death leaves the race for De Baca County sheriff in a state of uncertainty. She had defeated Cleaver in the June Democratic primary and was scheduled to face fellow deputy Kurt Griego in the general election. Griego had filed to run as a write-in candidate following Denny’s primary win.
According to New Mexico election law , the county’s Democratic Party Central Committee will appoint a candidate to replace Denny on the general election ballot.