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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.

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.

Just when the suicide note was found was not made clear.

“During the course of the investigation into Mitchell’s disappearance, a note was discovered,” Focha said in a written statement. “The note was authored by Steven Mitchell and made clear his intention to end his life.”

Mitchell had been involved in numerous high-profile cases as outside counsel for cities and Sonoma County. Most recently, he was defending the Sheriff’s Office in a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of 13-year-old Andy Lopez of Santa Rosa. The youth was shot dead in 2013 by a sheriff’s deputy who said he mistook an airsoft BB gun Lopez was carrying for an AK-47 rifle.

The attorney represented the Sheriff’s Office in the 2007 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Jeremiah Chass of Sebastopol. And he was the attorney for the city of Sebastopol when it was sued by a teenager who suffered brain injury in 2009 when she was struck by a car in a crosswalk.

Mitchell, who grew up in a Eureka legal family and went to Stanford, was past president of the Sonoma County Bar Association.

Staff Writer Julie Johnson contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne.

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