Coroner Reveals Cause of Death for Congressman's Wife, 39, Whose Body Was Found in Her Home Office


Kentucky Rep. Andy Barr's wife, Eleanor Carol Leavell Barr, died suddenly at their Lexington home on Tuesday night as a result of a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse, the coroner said.

The Fayette County coroner announced Wednesday that preliminary autopsy findings indicated the 39-year-old mother of two, who went by Carol, had mitral valve prolapse (MVP), also known as floppy valve syndrome or Barlow's syndrome.

The coroner, Gary Ginn, tells PEOPLE they responded to the Barrs' home shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday and Carol was in her home office when she was found dead.

"It was sad. We got a young mother that we don’t have a cause of death for. There’s no explanation for it at the scene. Obviously, an autopsy was necessary to determine the exact cause of death," Ginn explains.

(He dismissed earlier reporting in The New York Times that Carol had likely died from a massive brain aneurysm.)

Ginn says he's spoken to the Barr family and "they’re coping the best they possibly can."

"They’re all very together and trying to stay together," he says.

"She’s got two beautiful daughters and it just is a misfortune," he says. "It’s horrible."

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, in people with MVP the heart's mitral valve has "floppy" flaps that may not seal properly, causing blood to "leak the wrong way through the floppy valve."

Complications, however, are rare and most people with MVP do not experience symptoms or major backflow, according to the institute.

When complications do arise, it is usually due to the flow of blood back through the valve the wrong way which, over time, can cause heart muscle strain and lead to arrhythmia (or an irregular heartbeat) or increase the risk of a bacterial infection in the heart.

Carol's unexpected passing drew an outpouring of condolences from the state's political figures. In his own statement on Wednesday morning, her husband remembered her as "dear and precious."

"At this time of tremendous grief and pain, we ask for prayers for our beautiful, dear and precious Carol, the greatest, most selfless and giving wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend anyone could ever have," said Rep. Barr, 46.

The two wed in 2008 and had daughters Eleanor, 9, and 7-year-old Mary Clay.

An alumnae of the University of Kentucky, Carol had recently worked in health care and had grown up in Georgetown, Kentucky, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"In this moment of profound grief and heartbreak, we are so grateful for the gift and blessing of Carol’s life, for her strong faith in her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for the comfort of fond memories and her victory in heaven and for all those who have surrounded Carol’s family, the girls and I with beautiful expressions of love, compassion and sympathy,” Rep. Barr said in his statement.

Through their girls, he said, "Carol’s extraordinary life, high character and irrepressible spirit will continue."

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