- - Monday, January 10, 2011

A lobbyist for Progress Energy married to an aide to President Obama was found dead in a car fire at her home near the U.S. Capitol, fire authorities and the company said Monday.

The body of Ashley Turton, wife of the White House deputy director of legislative affairs Dan Turton, was discovered in a car that was burning in their garage, according to the D.C. Fire Department and the company.

Police said there was no evidence of foul play, but the death was a second blow to the Capitol Hill community still dealing with the shock from the Saturday shooting of Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, in which one of her aides was killed and two others wounded.

Mrs. Turton, the 37-year-old mother of three young children, had served as press spokesperson and then chief of staff for Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro before joining the energy firm in 2007. Dan Turton also had extensive Capitol Hill ties, having worked most recently as staff director to New York Democratic Rep. Louise M. Slaughter before taking the White House post.

“She was special,” Mrs. DeLauro said in a statement. “… She was a leader and comrade in arms to so many staff. She was a member of our family, and we mourn her. My heart goes out to her family, especially her husband Dan and their three young children. This is truly a terrible week for our congressional family.”

House Minority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said: “The Capitol Hill community knew Ashley for her professionalism and commitment to public service, and many called her a friend. She was taken from her family and her community far too soon, and I know that she will be greatly missed.”

D.C. Fire Department spokesman Pete Piringer said firefighters were called to the Capitol Hill row house just before dawn and found a car engulfed in flames. No one else was injured and the fire department said an initial theory they are considering is that there may have been a crash involving the vehicle.

The back end of Mrs. Turton’s SUV was partly out of the garage as if the vehicle was entering or leaving when the fire started, authorities said.

“The leading theory is [that] the car crashed through the garage doors and … was found on fire in the garage area,” Mr. Piringer said.

Ashley was a valued employee whose insight and hard work had been critical on so many of our legislative and regulatory issues,” said Bill Johnson, chief executive officer and president of Progress Energy, based in Raleigh, N.C.

The company has been closely following legislation in Congress related to regulating carbon emissions, addressing climate change and boosting jobs in the energy sector.

The White House declined to comment on the incident.

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