A family that began searching a month ago for a Cotati woman who disappeared — leaving her phone, keys, purse and endless questions behind — is now in mourning.
Noemi “Mimi” Coolbaugh, 49, is still missing, presumed to be alive after having walked away from her sister’s Gilroy home in a cloud of depression, leaving her family to plaster Northern California with posters offering a reward for information about her whereabouts.
But her husband, who joined the search with public pleas for help finding Coolbaugh, was found dead Monday morning.
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Coroner officials confirmed that Steve Ronald Coolbaugh, 49, died at the couple’s Cotati home. His death appears to have been a suicide, and the preliminary investigation has uncovered no foul play, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said. He leaves behind his wife and their 19-year-old son.
Steve Coolbaugh’s public plea for help finding his missing wife brought his family’s plight with depression into the public’s consciousness.
Mimi Coolbaugh was last seen at about 7:30 a.m. June 22 when she left her sister’s home in Gilroy on foot, according to Gilroy police. Coolbaugh’s family searched the Gilroy neighborhood for days but found no sign of her.
Since then, the search has expanded to include towns throughout Northern California from Santa Clara to Sonoma County.
Neither police here nor in Gilroy have indicated they considered Mimi Coolbaugh’s disappearance to be anything other than a case of a missing person.
Steve Coolbaugh chartered a helicopter to search from the air and hired a private investigator. They have received help from the missing-person agency KlaasKids and friends of Sierra LaMar, a teen girl authorities suspect was abducted in 2012 and has not been found. The private investigator discovered that Mimi Coolbaugh had searched for information about Lake Tahoe on her phone.
On Monday, Mimi Coolbaugh’s sister Myrna Aguilar of Gilroy said she was in the Lake Tahoe area to put up missing person posters when she received a text message from Steve Coolbaugh just before 6:45 a.m. The message stated that he couldn’t live without his wife. She called Cotati police and asked that they check on him at the couple’s Pinercrest Court home.
Before they could, her 19-year-old nephew called her and said his father was unresponsive on the floor, she said.
“This is a nightmare — he took his life, he could not live without her,” Aguilar said.
“His son is alone now.”
Aguilar said her family will continue looking for Coolbaugh, despite the nagging worries that grow with each day about her ability to survive without money and medication. Aguilar said she hopes someone in the Lake Tahoe area will have seen Coolbaugh, who even at her worst times always found a church to attend on Sundays.
“I’m hopeful. Maybe she did, maybe she did go there, but with each passing day, I feel that she’s not with us anymore,” Aguilar said. “But we need to keep looking for her until we know different.”
The North Bay Suicide Prevention Hotline of Sonoma County can be reached toll free at 855-587-6373. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is toll free at 800-273-TALK. Sonoma County’s 24-hour psychiatric emergency services hotline is 576-8181.
You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jjreport.