Zoa White, 69, was found dead in her Spring Hill Avenue home when police responded to a report of a burglary. Police have not disclosed the manner of death, nor whether anything was taken from the home.
White had worked on Riley's 2006 re-election campaign and served as director of special projects for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).
Bill Johnson, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 Republican primary for governor, served as director of ADECA under Riley. It's unclear if Johnson and White worked for ADECA at the same time.
Johnson, however, has become one his former boss' harshest critics, raising questions about campaign funds Riley allegedly received from Mississippi gaming interests, funneled through disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In fact, Johnson has said that a federal investigation into gambling-related activity in the Alabama Legislature should focus on Riley and other anti-gaming forces, not just pro-gaming Democrats.
Johnson also has filed a complaint with Alabama Attorney General Troy King, alleging numerous conflicts of interests involving the governor and members of his family.
Friends described Zoa White as generous, kind, and elegant. Reports the Mobile Press-Register:
"I would like for people to know she was everything," said friend Jean Hearn. "So kind and generous. She was a beautiful person and she was beautiful in spirit."
Neighbors and friends were shocked by White's death:
As investigators combed the 69-year-old's home for clues Tuesday, friends and neighbors were still reeling from the news.
"Everybody here just loved her a lot," said Cindy Hayes, a receptionist at Dauphin Realty where White once worked as an agent. "She was an extremely nice person and she would help anybody."
White, a mother and grandmother, eventually left a successful real estate career to work on broader social issues for the state.
Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, who doubles as commander of Riley's Anti-Gambling Task Force, is a key figure in the investigation of White's murder. Officials were remaining tight lipped this morning:
Police spokesman Officer Ron Wallace said in an e-mail, "There is no new information to give at this time."
Wallace declined to say how White was killed, deferring to the results of the autopsy that was scheduled to be performed Tuesday morning. As of Tuesday afternoon, autopsy findings had not been made public. . . .
Police have declined to say if anything was taken from White's home, or if there were signs of forced entry.
Asked Tuesday why investigators would not release how White was killed, or if she was the victim of a burglary, Wallace said, "The information from yesterday's release is all we have now."
Here is a report from Mobile television station WKRG: