Friends and family of a missing Santa Rosa attorney are mourning his loss after the disclosure of a suicide note that made it clear he intended to end his life.
A week after Steve Mitchell disappeared, touching off a coastal search and widespread concern in the community, investigators said Friday they now believe Mitchell killed himself.
“The family would like to publicly acknowledge all those who have expressed their concern, support and condolences during this very difficult time,” Mitchell’s older brother, Eureka attorney William Mitchell, said in an email. “We ask that you please respect the privacy of our family during this time of grieving.”
Mitchell, 56, who represented local government in a career spanning three decades, disappeared Saturday after leaving his Bennett Valley home to run errands. His parked car was discovered the next day near a beach south of Jenner.
An air and ground search turned up nothing. At some point, a note was uncovered that confirmed Mitchell planned to kill himself, sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said.
Focha would not say when or where the note was found or describe its contents. She also would not say whether it revealed why Mitchell would commit suicide.
“Based on the totality of the information we have, it is clear that he intended to take his life,” Focha said Friday.
His body has not been found, she said.
The downtown Santa Rosa law firm where Mitchell worked since 1989 — Geary, Shea, O’Donnell, Grattan & Mitchell — released a statement mourning their friend.
“Steve was our brother, our friend, and our law partner and his loss leaves us heartbroken,” said the statement emailed from partner John Geary. “He was uniquely gifted, and his passion for the practice of law and the art of advocacy will remain an inspiration to us. Our thoughts and prayers are with Steve and his family.”
The acknowledgments ended a week of speculation about what happened to the respected attorney, husband and father of four adult children. Friends and fellow lawyers had feared that he took his own life, based in part on the discovery of clothing items at Furlong Gulch Beach.
But they were at a loss to explain why the competitive tennis player, who with wife Terri had been active in the Montgomery High School athletic boosters, would kill himself.
Laurie Fong, the school’s principal, said those who knew them at the east Santa Rosa campus were heartsick.
“Just imagine: four children. They knew us well, they knew the athletics well, they knew the foundation well,” Fong said. “They just spent a lot of time as devoted Viking parents.”
The family told deputies Mitchell left his east Santa Rosa home Saturday morning about 9 a.m., telling his family he had errands. When he hadn’t returned or checked in by Saturday night, his wife contacted the Sheriff’s Office to say he was missing.
It appeared Mitchell was last known to be at the Sonoma Coast.
His cellphone was last used in the Bodega Bay area, his wife told sheriff’s officials. And Sunday morning, Mitchell’s car was found parked above the beach. Within a few hours, his clothing and cellphone were found at or near the beach.