Concern mounting for missing Santa Rosa attorney Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell drove away from his Bennett Valley home on Saturday morning, saying that he needed to run some errands.
He never returned.
Three days later, the disappearance of the prominent Santa Rosa attorney remained a mystery, one that has left his colleagues and friends stunned and concerned.
“It’s a complete shock,” said Pat Emery, a Santa Rosa attorney and personal friend who has known Mitchell more than 25 years. “It’s out of the blue. As far as I could see, his life was happy and productive in all aspects.”
California State Parks rangers discovered Mitchell’s 2005 Acura on Sunday morning, parked above a beach on a coastal bluff south of Jenner. A cellphone and clothing were retrieved from the area, but investigators could find no other clues, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
A ground and air search was conducted Sunday along the coast but scaled back Monday to a single deputy. The coastal search was suspended Tuesday morning, pending new information.
Concern over Mitchell’s whereabouts mounted Tuesday as news of his disappearance spread rapidly through the legal community.
“He’s one of the foremost lawyers in Sonoma County. We hope for the best,” said Judge Rene Chouteau, who described Mitchell as “an excellent attorney and a wonderful human being.”
Steven C. Mitchell, 56, is tenacious in both the courtroom and on the tennis court, where he is a fixture on the competitive tennis circuit in Sonoma County. He and his wife, Terri, are well-known among families at Montgomery High School, where their four children went to school.
Mitchell is a partner at one of the county’s preeminent law firms — Geary, Shea, O’Donnell, Grattan and Mitchell, where he has been practicing civil law since 1989. He has represented cities, counties and police agencies in a number of cases over the years involving excessive force and wrongful death claims.
He currently represents the county in the high-profile suit brought by the parents of Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old boy who was shot dead by a sheriff’s deputy.
Mitchell was reported missing on Saturday night by his wife, who said her husband had been gone all day without checking in, something that was highly unusual.
Deputies issued an alert at 10 p.m. Saturday to area agencies to look for Mitchell and his Acura.
Early Sunday morning, his wife reported that Mitchell’s cellphone had been used last in the Bodega Bay area. Just before 8 a.m., state parks rangers found his unoccupied car south of Jenner, parked on Carlevaro Way, above Furlong Gulch Beach.
An extensive search ensued by sheriff’s deputies, search and rescue volunteers and the sheriff’s helicopter crew. Other than items of clothing and the phone, they found no sign of the man. Sheriff’s officials have said there was no indication he was the victim of foul play.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said a detective was attempting to retrace Mitchell’s steps since he was last seen and find any new leads.
Focha declined to discuss details of the investigation, including where the clothing and phone were found, what items of clothing were found and whether the case was a possible suicide.