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Peter Kingston, director of finance and operations at Ursuline High School and husband of Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, was found dead at his Santa Rosa home Tuesday.

Sheriff Steve Freitas said the death was an apparent suicide.

Zane had just finished an afternoon meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday and was not at home when her husband was found by a family member shortly before 5 p.m., Freitas said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Efren Carrillo announced Kingston's death at the annual Sonoma County State of the County breakfast at the Doubletree Hotel in Rohnert Park on Wednesday morning. He asked "everyone here to take a moment to keep Shirlee, her family and friends in their thoughts and prayers as they go through this very difficult moment."

The Cambridge University-educated Kingston, 56, was a former businessman who was in charge of finances for Ursuline, a Catholic school for girls. The school announced in the fall that it did not have the financial resources to stay open and would close at the end of this academic year.

Sister Joanne Abrams, one of three nuns who oversee the school and its board of trustees, said staff and faculty at Ursuline were "devastated" by the news.

"My heart is broken," Abrams said. "He was such a nice guy, warm, gentle. I just can't believe it."

She said Ursuline Principal Julie Carver met with counselors Wednesday morning and discussed how to relay the news to faculty and students.

<CW-30>Abrams said the last time she met with Kingston was about a month ago. Like many others in the Ursuline community, Kingston took the news of the school closure "very hard," she said.</CW>

"We kept assuring him that it certainly wasn't his doing — the declining enrollment and the economy," she said.

Ursuline relied on $1.2 million from the founding Ursuline Order just to finish the year.

Abrams said auditors hired to look at Ursuline's books had "commended Peter for the work he was doing."

Kingston, a native of England, was previously married to Kristina Mailliard, with whom he had two children, Jamie and Gwenny. Mailliard died of breast cancer in 2001 at age 48.

She and Kingston once owned a small Santa Cruz natural beverage producer called Mrs. Wiggles Rocket Juice Co., which they built into a national product line by pioneering the use of supplements to enhance products' nutritional value.

They moved the company to Santa Rosa in 1985 and sold it in 1998 to J.M. Smucker Corp.

Kingston and Zane were married in June, 2004. Zane, who had been head of the Council on Aging of Sonoma County, was elected to her first term as District 3 supervisor in 2008, representing most of Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park.

Combined, they have three adult children.

Mike Truesdell, president of Cardinal Newman High School, the Catholic school for boys, informed student families by e-mail Wednesday that counselors were being made available to students on both campuses.

County spokesman Jim Leddy said the county did not have any comment about Zane's immediate plans.

"We're asking people to give her privacy," Leddy said.

Zane's aide, Jessica Diaz, said the supervisor's office would be releasing additional details when appropriate.

"All of us here at the county are grieving for Supervisor Zane, as I'm sure are many people in the public," Freitas said.

Emergency personnel responded to the couple's home on McDonald Avenue and law enforcement officials arrived soon after after a family member reported finding Kingston's body hanging from a tree in the backyard, Freitas said.

An autopsy was conducted Wednesday morning and a final determination on cause of death will accompany a toxicology report, due in two to four weeks, the sheriff said. No note from Kingston was found by investigators.