Dan Johnson, a Republican state lawmaker in Kentucky accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl, has died of a "probable suicide," a local coroner has ruled.

The controversial politician parked at the end of a bridge over the Salt River in the southern state and shot himself on Wednesday night (13 December).

The body of the 57-year-old legislator and pastor was found by his car on the bank of the river in a secluded area with a single gunshot wound .

"I would say it is probably suicide," said Bullitt County Coroner Dave Billings, based in central Kentucky.

Johnson hit the headlines on Monday (11 December) when the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published an account from a woman saying that he had sexually assaulted her in his basement in 2013.

The unnamed woman reported the alleged assault to the police at the time but charges were not pursued.

Johnson said the allegation was "totally false", and linked them to those against Alabama Republican Roy Moore, who was defeated in a special Senate election on Tuesday. Johnson claimed that the accusations against him were part of a nationwide strategy to defeat conservative Republicans. Moore faced multiple claims of sexual assault against young women, some as young as 14.

Johnson posted a message on Facebook just before 5pm on Wednesday saying he had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder for 16 years. He called it "a sickness that will take my life".

Part of his message read: "The accusations from NPR [National Public Radio] are false GOD and only GOD knows the truth, nothing is the way they make it out to be. AMERICA will not survive this type of judge and jury fake news. Conservatives take a stand.

"I LOVE GOD and I LOVE MY WIFE, who is the best WIFE in the world, My Love Forever ! My Mom and Dad my FAMILY and all five of my kids and Nine grandchildren two in tummies and many more to come each of you or a total gift from GOD stay strong, REBECCA [his wife] needs YOU."

He said that after years of suffering post-traumatic stress disorder: "I cannot handle it any longer. IT Has Won This Life. BUT HEAVEN IS MY HOME."

Teaching the Bible

Johnson was elected to the Kentucky state legislature in 2016 despite controversy over online posts in which he compared former US president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, to monkeys.

The politician was a pastor at the Heart of Fire church in Louisville and sponsored a number of bills that backed teaching the Bible in public schools.

Michael Skoler, president of Louisville Public Media, which owns the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, said the group was "deeply sad" over Johnson's death.

But he added: "Our aim, as always, is to provide the public with fact-based, unbiased reporting and hold public officials accountable for their actions.

"As part of our process, we reached out to Representative Johnson numerous times over the course of a seven-month investigation. He declined requests to talk about our findings."

National Public Radio said it neither investigated the story about Johnson's conduct, nor aired or published it.