Delegate Sharon Lewis Malcolm, R-Kanawha, was found dead Monday. She was 72.
“She passed peacefully in her sleep sometime before noon today,” said Tim Morris, an adviser to Malcolm.
Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford said his office was contacted Monday after family members and campaign staff had not heard from Malcolm for about three days.
They entered her home and found her dead in bed. Although no foul play is suspected, Rutherford said the Medical Examiner’s Office will perform an autopsy because it was an unattended death.
“There is no indication of any foul play,” he said. “It appears she may have just passed in her sleep. However, over an abundance of caution, the medical examiner felt it should be looked into a little more closely.”
Malcolm allegedly was elbowed out of the way by Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, during an incident on the House floor in February, according to a complaint filed in Kanawha County Magistrate Court on Sept. 9. Caputo, who faces a misdemeanor battery charge, did not respond to a text message Monday.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, called Malcolm’s death “sudden” and said delegates mourn her with “great shock and sadness,” in a news release issued Monday.
“Sharon was a fierce public servant, who passionately stood in defense of the principles she held dear,” Hanshaw said. “On behalf of her friends and colleagues in the House, Kirsten and I extend our deepest prayers and sympathies to Sharon’s family and friends in this time of grief.”
All three Kanawha County commissioners issued statements after Malcolm’s death, including Commission President Kent Carper.
“Delegate Malcolm was a supporter of many Legislative issues for Kanawha County,” he said. “We worked well together on many projects for Kanawha County. She was an ambassador for the citizens of her jurisdiction and the County as a whole. She was a fighter for her district, very approachable and fiercely loyal to her constituents. She will be greatly missed.”
Gov. Jim Justice appointed Malcolm to fill a vacancy left in the 39th District and she was sworn in to service on March 30, 2018. She was elected to a full term in November of that year.
Before being appointed to the House, Malcolm served as the House of Delegates’ first female assistant doorkeeper and, later, as the first female assistant sergeant-at-arms for the Senate.
Malcolm was a mother, grandmother and longtime resident of Kanawha County, according to a news release from the House of Delegates. She also was a former state government employee.
Arrangements are pending with Barlow-Bonsall Funeral Home, in Charleston.